Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand - Museums Association

Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand

Supporting the mental health of dementia carers
Jane Legget and Kathryn McGuigan
The mental wellbeing of carers has a direct impact on the person they care for. Stigma associated with the dementia diagnosis frequently diminishes carers' social opportunities, leading to isolation and depression.

Visiting the Museum Together was conceived in 2014 as “innovative respite” to address the needs, interests and concerns of carers and the people they care for. Auckland War Memorial Museum partnered with Alzheimers Auckland to trial this programme of six themed visits delivered by trained museum volunteers.

Evaluation by an independent health researcher found that the programme provided positive social experiences. The key factors leading to the project’s success included:

  • Basing every session in the museum’s members’ lounge, a comfortable secure suite with a toilet and kitchen and lounge area where participants felt at home in a large, potentially daunting museum.
  • Keeping groups to six pairs.
  • Scheduling afternoon visits, which is a quieter time as most school groups have left.
  • Pairs of volunteers delivering themed content in a conversational style.
  • Sessions offering object-handling, contextual images and short visits to galleries.
  • Flexible timing with socialising before and after the main session content, finishing with afternoon tea.
  • Ensuring the same Alzheimers Auckland socialisation worker attended each session to support participants and volunteers.

The volunteers proved capable of delivering a welcoming, inclusive programme, which helped make this programme sustainable.

We also found that enjoying a normal outing together and sharing stories was as important for participants as engaging with the theme.

Our ideal outcome from the programme is that participants will return to the museum on independently and use the members’ lounge.

Jane Legget is the head of research at Auckland War Memorial Museum and Kathryn McGuigan is a doctoral health researcher at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand

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