As part of Everyday Creativity in Care (ECC) , a project encouraging people to use creative pursuits to express their feelings and connect with others, dementia-friendly art boxes were delivered to nine care homes while residents at two others took part in singing sessions.

The project was commissioned by East Sussex County Council’s public health team, supported by the authority’s cultural strategy and library teams, and overseen by Culture Shift – a Lewes-based arts charity, and is part of a larger county-wide Everyday Creativity project including four other groups particularly affected by the pandemic.

Catherine Orbach, Co-Director of Culture Shift said: “The art boxes and singing sessions are a wonderful way to help relieve the stress and strains that Covid-19 restrictions created among care home residents, and we are grateful to everyone involved in this project.  A number of activities took place last week during Creativity and Wellbeing Week and Dementia Action Week, highlighting further the importance of creative pursuits for people’s wellbeing.”

The art boxes were designed by ECC artists Marisa Gardner, Sarah Byrant and Lucy Groenewoud, with the help of care staff and families, and included art materials, sensory items essential oil kits donated by Tisserand. The boxes also included Creative Cards to promote discussion and ideas.

Artist Marisa said: “As restrictions ease, we hope that family members will get involved and use the resources to enjoy with their loved ones during their visits. There are already some strong positive indicators to the pilot project with beautiful stories and connections already documented.”

The boxes were delivered to Sovereign Lodge in Eastbourne, Orchard House in Bexhill, Queensmead Nursing Home in Polegate, Elizabeth Court in Bexhill, Whitebriars in Bexhill, Whitecliff in St Leonards, Saxonwood in Battle, Woodlands in Crowborough and Ardath in Bexhill.

Elizabeth Court Rest Home already have a person-centred activity programme in place, but used the Everyday Creativity resources to promote creativity and organised a photography treasure hunt, tea tasting activity and a poetry writing session.

Home manager Reece Welch said: “The Everyday Creativity project has really helped enhance our activity provision for our residents and has given our staff the tools to do even more creative based interventions with confidence, something which has been lacking since the pandemic forced us to close our doors to all the external creative experts and providers.”

As part of an Everyday Creativity pilot, residents at Parris Lawn in Ringmer and Claydon House in Lewes benefitted from singing and creative sessions delivered by local professional musicians Jane Haughton and Nancy Cooley from Raise Your Voice.

Jane and Nancy have been supporting singing and creative sessions by providing online staff training and musical resources. Together with choreographer Clare Whistler and percussionist Adam Bushell, they have created online videos for staff to use to support everyday singing, movement and music making. As restrictions ease the pair are beginning to meet care staff and residents face to face.

Jane said: “Our ethos is always to be playful so that music is a delight, a way of connecting emotionally and something everyone can do. In this way we hope that music can become part of the everyday fabric of life in the care home.”

As well as activities for residents, gift packs have been created for care staff with pampering and wellbeing products donated by The Organic Alchemist and Bird & Blend.  A support network for activity co-ordinators at the participating care homes has also been developed allowing them to support each other and share ideas.

Members of the public can find out more about the Everyday Creativity project by contacting Catherine Orbach or Julia Roberts, co-directors of Culture Shift, at info@cultureshift.org.uk

Everyday Creativity is aimed at groups hardest hit by the effects of Covid-19, and the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus.   The target groups for the project, which runs until the end of June, include people furloughed and recently unemployed, Personal Assistants supporting people in the local community, rough sleepers, care home residents and their families, and young people aged 14-19.