We're coming to the end of our run of workshops at a dementia drop-in at Royton, running sessions convened and observed by psychologist Polly Kaiser. We have had some fascinating feedback from participants - below is an example of a very thoughtful response. Because group dynamics are crucial for folks dealing with dementia, who often feel vulnerable, discussion about the atmosphere of the group is at the core of this. We were also interested by the careful distinction between 'carers' and 'sharers' at the end of this comment. Although our work frequently has a therapeutic outcome, we draw a distinction between our role of artists and that of carers or therapists - but we've never managed to do it so succinctly as in the following quote.
The danger is of service-users feeling embarrassed and if you can overcome it. People feel embarrassed by the condition, dementia - but the atmosphere in this group means people feel comfortable and valued. You're not encroaching into dangerous territory if you keep things fairly light, if the tone is introduced with a light touch. There's a lot of skill managing a group like this, group dynamics is a science of itself.
People can be shut off by embarrassment, of their own volition. There's a stigma with mental health and society needs to address that. But I find activities like this therapeutic. People feel comfortable, not threatened, at ease with others. It engenders a feeling of confidence and fellowship. The nice thing about this group is that people are affected by a common theme - and others' duty is sharing (not caring) and improving quality of life.
Participant in dementia drop-in group, Oldham