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An ongoing collaboration launched between UWS’s Kinections project and charity Hearts & Minds’ Elderflowers programme is aiming to bring more joy and laughter to care homes in East Ayrshire following the strict Covid-19 lockdown period.

From the beginning of the month, residents at Dalmellington Care Centre and Burnfoot House have been receiving online visits from Elderflower practitioners – a team of professional artists trained to work with people living with dementia in health and care settings.

The practitioners aim to enable meaningful human connection and generate feelings of belonging through singing, improvisation, play, music and movement and each activity is tailored to the individual resident’s needs.

Usually practitioners would visit individuals personally in care homes, however, following the Covid-19 pandemic, Hearts & Minds have been thinking of new ways to deliver their important services.

University of the West of Scotland’s Kinections project is supporting the month-long initiative. Kinections is a three-year research project, funded by the Life Changes Trust, which has been working across East Ayrshire to explore what can help foster a sense of community in care homes.

Not only will the collaboration bring laughter and connection during what has been a difficult period – particularly for care home residents, their loved ones and staff working in care homes- but it will also help inform future practice. The move to online visits from Elderflower practitioners will help academics at UWS deepen their understanding of new and novel ways specialists can connect with people living with dementia in care homes.

The words I have heard used to describe visits between Elderflowers and care home residents are ‘joyful and playful’ and I completely agree. Care home staff have spoken about how well residents have been engaging through the laptop screen and how quickly a warm bond developed between the Elderflowers and the residents.

Dr Edel Roddy, Kinections Project Lead at UWS.

“I have seen how the care home staff and Hearts & Minds practitioners have been extremely open and enthusiastic in adopting to these new circumstances. I am very hopeful that we will be able to gather key learnings from this collaboration to ensure that online visits between creative practitioners and residents with dementia are meaningful and impactful for everyone involved.”

Rebecca Simpson, CEO of Hearts & Minds said: “Hearts & Minds is honoured to be working in partnership with the Kinections Project and the University of the West of Scotland. For us, creating a sense of community is vital to our delivery. Human connection is core to everything that we do and through this partnership we will be able to support learning and, in turn, develop our own delivery. As a result of COVID-19 we had to completely change the way in which we work but this partnership is enabling us to still work with people living with dementia.”

The project is another example of the pioneering work underway at University of the West of Scotland to tackle dementia. UWS is home to the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice (ASCPP) – a centre of excellence in advancing dementia policy and practice through education, applied research and social enterprise.

The latest collaboration comes after the Centre recently announced its involvement in a major new Government-funded study in partnership with The University of Edinburgh looking into understanding and reducing the psychosocial impact of social distancing on families of care home residents in Scotland.

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