Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums - Museums Association

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) has been delivering a number of bespoke cultural and heritage programmes working – alongside occupational therapists in extra care residences and hospital wards – with older people who have dementia.

This is part of the developing TWAM Platinum Programme – our comprehensive culture and heritage programme for people aged over 55 across Tyne & Wear.

Using museum objects and archive collections to trigger memories alongside people’s own photos and possessions, we have facilitated engaging conversations between group members.

TWAM also uses a model of delivery that combines memories with present-day creative activities that are accessible even to people with more progressed dementia and reduced memories.

We have been running the programmes in extra care residences over the past four years, while the hospital programme has been running over two months.

The cost of running the programmes is essentially to pay for museum staffing costs, which is currently covered by Arts Council England’s Major Partner Museum funding, within TWAM’s community programming, so the staffing costs are already paid for.

We have a small budget of around £1,000 per year which covers materials and additional objects for the TWAM memory box loans.

For the extra care part of the programme, we liaised with the commissioner for public health (who has a remit for older people and mental health), who initially supported the proposal to work with occupational therapists in her geographical area and passed on contact details.

From there we created a joint memorandum of understanding that outlined TWAM’s responsibilities and NHS partner responsibilities in terms of the programme, evaluation and data sharing, a reciprocal short placement for museum staff and occupational therapists, and timescale and minimum time commitment.

This meant senior managers were able to make an informed decision to commit to their staff’s involvement and sign the agreement. For the hospital part of the programme we had a much looser agreement as it was a pilot and experimental.

We both agreed to deliver six sessions at the hospital and clinical staff would assess, recommend and encourage specific patients to join the programme. We are currently negotiating implementing the programme long-term due to initial successes reported by clinical staff.

One member of the clinical staff told us: “The work of your colleagues has provided opportunities for patients to reminisce and to articulate their memories to other people on the ward.

“I have noticed through my own observation that creating opportunities to reminisce can encourage patients, who can sometimes be withdrawn, to engage with other people.

“This engagement can enhance the social interactions between patients and thus potentially improve the experience of being on a ward environment during treatment.

“After this initial pilot project, it appears that social interaction could be a mechanism of change that we could focus on.

“So going forward, we would be interested in obtaining objective measures to observe what effects the reminiscence groups have on social interaction.

“The use of stimuli provided by TWAM, such as football memorabilia, old records and clothes, appears to have been effective in allowing some patients to tap into and discuss their autobiographical memories to other members of the group.”

For the extra care part of the programme the occupational therapist promoted every session by word-of-mouth to the residents and with posters around the building.

To back this up the occupational therapist would personally remind carers and family of the sessions and knock on doors and post reminders through the doors of all the residents the day before the sessions were planned.

We also provided support in the way of a door-to-door pick up to help more fragile members of the group get from their apartment to the communal room where the activities were taking place.

For the hospital part of the programme, clinical staff promoted the programme through word-of-mouth to specific patients they had assessed as being appropriate to join the programme.

Clinical staff also gained permission from family members/carers prior to programme delivery.

For the extra care part of the programme there needed to be an occupational therapist at every session and the room which was used was quiet, cosy and detached, away from the busy communal areas.

For the hospital part of the programme there was a clinical phycologist, occupational therapist and support staff present and again the room was quiet, cosy and detached away from the busy communal areas.