Frome Nursing Home ran art sessions for their family members who enjoy putting brush to paper. The home always refers to their sixty residents as family members, which is part of their policy of being a real home from home. Seventy-year-old Doreen Wilkins, pictured, has lived there for the last eight years and loves the art sessions which are run by Annie Davis and Angie Gordon, who are known collectively as the Jolly Good Company.
The home booked them because they know that creativity has enormous benefits for both the elderly and with anybody living with conditions such as dementia. Angie and Annie both said they love working at the Frome Home as they treat all their family members with dignity and respect.
The art sessions always start off with an announcement saying not to worry about making a mess as that is all part of the joy of painting. Doreen chose to design her own butterflies using a template supplied by Annie and Angie. She is concentrating on decorating her butterfly’s wings with a very fine paintbrush,but suddenly she sighs and puts her brush down, saying “I wish my hands were steadier”
Immediately, one of the home’s care team is by her side offering to help and a short while later the wing is starting to fill in with a bright blue hue.
“I love helping people create art” Annie says. Angie agrees, “It brings the art alive and it doesn’t matter if the artists haven’t painted anything since leaving school. It’s the taking part that counts. It’s fun and it’s inclusive” Doreen’s smiling face as she finishes her first wing certainly supports this.
In conversation with the care team at Frome, they say that they aim to keep everyone in the home occupied doing something they enjoy, rather than sitting, doing nothing. Keeping active, both mentally and if possible, physically too, is considered the best way to treat conditions that can come with old age.
“Activities offered within care homes should play a central role,” says Professor Martin Green of English Community Care Association. "Purposeful activities stimulate residents and improve their well-being.” They are also known to improve moods and reduce agitation.
In the Frome lounge where the art session is held, the family members have finished painting and are looking proudly at their completed butterfly wings on the tables in front of them. Angie says that the family members look forward to these art sessions. Two-thirds of the home live with dementia and referring to these, she goes on to say that everyone in the art session was meaningfully engaged, even if just for a short while. It’s enjoyable and it’s the participation that counts.
Annie and Angie have come with a small tree branch, mounted in a pot, which they will pin the painted butterflies to after carefully drying each one with a hair drier. The artwork, including Doreen’s, will then be put on display in the home for everyone else to enjoy. The home’s care team puts it succinctly when they say “To see the face of someone who lives in a nursing home, full of pride and accomplishment, is a wonderful thing.”