RaPAL

Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

D

D, Learning for the Fourth Age

D was referred for support after a diagnosis of early dementia. She lived on her own and had been an artist. The brief was to find a volunteer to enable her to continue enjoying her hobby and give her purpose and distraction during the day. The care co-ordinator, Clare Miles, visited and was able to hear all about the things she enjoyed doing and see some of her paintings, as well as to talk to her son, who was D’s main carer. They were able to talk about the other groups and help that was already being accessed to ensure that this was complimented and not replicated or clashed with.

The situation at home was assessed in terms of how a volunteer would enter, keep safe, inform the family and other carers of the visit, and any problems could be reported. A communication book calendar was set up to make this easier and to give D a reference and reminder for who would visit when. A volunteer was sought who would be able to cope with these different challenges and understand D’s condition.

Working with D has been a hugely moving experience as her passion and progress have grown and developed despite her health setbacks. D did not remember who was visiting each week but quickly associated them with painting. D re-found all her old painting equipment over a number of weeks with help from her family. Having not painted for a while, D really enjoyed talking about her art, remembering the jobs she had had, recalling paintings and holidays, discussing styles and materials and even finishing off unfinished paintings.

After just five weekly sessions, D fell and consequently ended up in hospital and was then moved into a care home. Her box of paints and art materials went with her and we simply continued the sessions in the home. D is very comfortable painting once started on a picture and after 6-7 sessions was keen to carry on without support at the end of the session so we left her painting things out and she enjoyed demonstrating and talking to staff and residents about what she was doing.

Being able to bring this kind of continuity of a completely individualised provision to D in the care home setting has meant that staff and residents have really got to know D and to see what she is capable of! She is not just an elderly lady with dementia; she has skill, she has passion for her interests and she has opinions and likes and dislikes she can share and demonstrate.

D has recently had a stroke and despite this we are able to keep the continuity of visits in hospital (where appropriate). We were able to bring our existing knowledge of what she enjoys to new sessions planned around her current condition and hopefully enable her to continue enjoying art.

Tutor Perspective: Clare Miles

Clare is a domiciliary care co-ordinator in the community with Learning for the Fourth Age who is sharing some anonymised life long learning case studies. As well as developing and maintaining basic literacies, these stories demonstrate the high therapeutic and practical value of drawing on sophisticated, creative applied literacies skills acquired over the life course to maintain quality of life while in supported living.

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