Princess House in Seaburn is the latest care home location for the NE team's input to the Dementia & Imagination research project. Today will be my only visit to this care home location. It's a lovely place, right on the sea front, a lighthouse in view and the beach a short walk away.
Meeting the new people is always exciting, watching the careful way the Intervention Artists, Kate and Claire spend time with each person, shaking hands, holding eye contact with smiles and laughter intertwined with greetings and chatter is heartwarming.
The session is spent being expressive with faces first, then hands, as we pass an imaginary ball around the group. Care is taken to protect the ball which soon becomes a baby bird, a nest, a hedgehog. Hands reach out to join in. Others just enjoy the watching, silently, their faces tracking the movements of others.
A lady clutches a teddy bear tightly, a thing of comfort perhaps. She joins in with the activity, encouraged by the person sat with her, the bear sometimes becoming part of her extended movement; he is joining in too, or perhaps on behalf of her.
The session continues with green screen filming of residents moving and imagining different places. The image of these far off places are projected onto a screen at the side of them, with their own image layered in. There is much hilarity about the activity, and there is also difficulty for some in understanding they they can see themselves in the projected image on the screen.
"I don't know what's happening, I don't know what's going on".
I'm conscious that as I write these words for you to see, it is open to interpretation. What visual markers, what sounds, what body movement accompanies this uttered phrase? How does my use of language shift the reading of the situation, how do I influence what you take away? For now I leave the thought as an opening for further discussion.
The difference in how people are affected by their dementia is intriguing, each time I experience something new. And unexpectedly, now here I am being told off for being in someone's private home.
"all these people are in my house and they're treating it as their own".
The flustered confusion is calmed by attentive staff and the raised voice quietens, for a while.
The session ends and as we leave I look out at the sea, the weather patterns creating a fragmented surface; mixed brown-blue water, clouds white with darkened shade scurrying past. The funfair is just setting up in the field nearby and the child in me wants to stay, to run in these open spaces, to play on the sand filled beach and take in these views.
I begin to wonder if those people behind me share any of my sense of wonderment. How do they see where they live, what is their perception of their place?