Art sessions create ‘cheeky banter’ and community among those with dementia

Tapestry Care UK has said that art sessions have allowed those with dementia to come out of their shell.

Bird next to a clay flower
Bird next to a clay flower

Art sessions organised by a charity have helped to bring those with dementia “out of their shell” and give them the confidence to create “fantastic” creations and engage in “cheeky banter”.

Havering-based charity Tapestry Care UK, which specialises in dementia and respite care – as well as supporting vulnerable adults including those who have learning difficulties and complex needs, who they refer to as ‘clients’ – carry out regular art sessions in their two hubs – HOPWA House in Hornchurch and Paines Brook in Harold Hill – which have brought “giggles” and helped to create a sense of community.

Art sessions usually have a theme based on “what’s going on in the world”, and no medium is off the table, with anything from paper to clay being used.

Flower made using different materials
Stained glass effect flowers (Tapestry Care UK/Toni Peers/PA)

The charity’s digital and social media officer – Renée Pitter, 23, from Lewisham, south-east London – told the PA news agency that the sessions have helped to bring people out of their shell and even improve their condition in some cases.

“We have one client who has dementia and went to a doctor’s appointment and obviously after a while, the doctors are going to expect the dementia to get worse,” she said.

“However, since she’s been doing the art sessions, when she went to the doctor’s appointment he was actually shocked because she was getting better.

“And we’ve seen that numerous times with our clients – art has a big impact in their lives and helps to bring them out of their shell because some of them used to be architects or designers so they have that creativity.

“Their work is fantastic.”

Different coloured hats
Hats made for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (Tapestry Care UK/Toni Peers/PA)

She added that “it’s sad to see those going through dementia and all of them are in different stages.

“Some of them will still remember things they did yesterday and some think they are where they were 40 years ago.

“We do all what we can to support them and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

Toni Peers, who lives in Colchester, Essex, is the owner of CG Crafts and taught art lessons at the two hubs from November 2020 to August 2022, told PA that she loved the “cheeky banter” and “mild competitiveness” that happened in classes.

“One lady is really good at art and although she doesn’t have much verbal communication now, she still joins in the banter as we all giggle about how good she is and how we can’t compete,” the 49-year-old said.

“There are a lot of lovely chats going on, often inspired by the art and what they did at school, or how rubbish they were at school in art.”

Watercolour butterflies
Watercolour butterflies made by clients (Toni Peers/Tapestry Care UK/PA)

She also made sure to give “individual attention” to people as much as she could as “this really helps each person feel valued and less isolated and we do have a good giggle about the art”.

She added that organising art sessions was a case of “trial and error”.

“I have done all sorts of activities in the sessions at Tapestry Care, some work well and some are more challenging,” she said.

“Watercolour works well and I find if you can run an activity which can be made into something useful that really helps, so often our watercolour work will be made into a greetings card.

“We have also done air dry clay work, party hats for the Jubilee, Christmas decorations and crackers, themed workshops such as beach scenes for the summer.”

Black lanterns made using paper
Halloween lanterns (Toni Peers/Tapestry Care UK/PA)

She added that ongoing cost-of-living issues across the country have put a “halt” on her ability to carry out the creative sessions.

“Although we knew it before lockdown, creativity is for good mental health and the act of doing something practical together is also a great social activity for the clients and me so I hope a magic pot of money can be found and I am able to return soon,” she said.

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