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The role of arts and culture in care homes

In my role as a former principal inspector when looking for best practice in care homes an important consideration of any inspection, was always the range of activities provided for residents. If an inspector when visiting a home is shown to the resident’s lounge and is confronted with an exceedingly loud television with a large number of residents sitting in front of it, they will begin to ask the question what activities are being provided for residents. In their latest review of the Key Lines of Enquiry the Care Quality Commission are also placing a greater weighting on activities as an indicator of the resident’s quality of life.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence and All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. The Role of the Arts and Culture in Social Care Policy Briefing – July 2017, supports the importance of a range of activities for residents in care homes including art and culture.

The key messages from the briefing are: • The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived. • The arts can help meet major challenges facing social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health. • The arts can help save money in social care.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) has undertaken a major Inquiry into the role of the arts in health and wellbeing, with which the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has been involved. The Inquiry yielded a substantial report – Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing – providing strong evidence that creative and cultural activities can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

The report found that in older people’s Services a growing body of evidence and practical experience that shows the engagement in the arts should be considered an integral part of healthy ageing. Social isolation and loneliness affect people of all ages. In older adults, social participation is more beneficial for health than giving up smoking. Around the country, community-based creative and cultural opportunities are being offered to older people as a way of overcoming social isolation and loneliness.

The research found: • Participatory arts sessions in care homes yield improvements in residents’ wellbeing and the quality of care being provided by staff. • Artists’ residencies in care homes prove popular with participants and carers alike, animating and personalising the care environment.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group support the proposal of artists’ residencies in every care home. Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care for the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Andrea Sutcliffe, has pointed to the role of the arts in enabling people to live full and meaningful lives, identifying the best care homes to be ‘flexible and responsive to people’s individual needs and preferences, finding creative ways to enable people to live a full life.

We hope that this positive view will lead to more examples of care home providers securing culturally stimulating environments for their residents and staff and incorporating the arts into care packages.

An imaginative and holistic approach, which positively impacts on the wellbeing of residents, will make care homes more attractive to commissioners. SCIE has curated a digital resource, funded by the Baring Foundation, to increase their confidence and skills of care home staff in engaging residents in the arts.

Demand for older people’s dance classes now outstrips supply. Evidence is emerging that arts engagement helps to delay the onset of dementia. Musical training can enhance the plasticity of the brain, and visual art can improve cognitive functioning.

Engagement in creative and cultural activities can improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. Arts on Prescription As part of a move towards place-based care, social prescribing seeks solutions to psychosocial problems in the community beyond the clinical environment. The most common outcomes of such community referral schemes are: increases in self-esteem and confidence; a greater sense of control and empowerment; improvements in psychological wellbeing; and reductions in anxiety and depression. Arts on prescription is a vital part of social prescribing, providing participatory creative activities that help to restore people’s wellbeing and reduce anxiety, depression and stress.

Summary There is a great deal of evidence that the offer of a range of activities to residents in care homes is beneficial to their health and wellbeing. The Social Care Institute for Excellence and All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing – The Role of the Arts and Culture report provides a description of what can be achieved in a care home setting. An emphasis on art and culture will not only improve the quality of life for residents, but provide staff with an added interesting element to their work

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

For more information about anything in this briefing or for a copy of the report, contact Alexandra Coulter:

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