The Dementia Friendly Life Enrichment Program at SaskAbilities enhances the quality of life of individuals living with dementia in Yorkton and surrounding rural communities. Through the program, SaskAbilities has been able to reduce caregiver burnout and increase social connections by providing one-to-one services and group programming for people living with dementia. Since the program began in 2021, a total of 48 individuals living with dementia and their care partners have been served across nine different communities.
As restrictions ended for COVID-19 earlier this year, Dementia Friendly Facilitators expanded their supports into the community. One group activity per month was planned for people living with dementia and their care partner to attend. Group outings included mini golf, going to the museum and having lunch as a group.
By engaging with the community and accessing different venues, SaskAbilities found that local businesses are becoming more dementia friendly. For example, the Esterhazy Bowling Alley ensured the facility was quiet when the group visited, Mano’s Restaurant in Yorkton ensured that they had a quiet and accessible banquet room for group programming, and the Golf Course Club House at Madge Lake ensured the location for lunch was accessible and quiet. When businesses took meaningful steps towards becoming dementia friendly, the participants’ comfort levels increased.
During the group outings, friendships developed amongst care partners and those living with dementia. Care partners have shared contact information and met with each other outside of group gatherings. Natural support groups have formed between care partners as a result of group programming.
Similarly, participants of the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery’s project, Belong Where You Find Yourself, enjoyed visiting with each other and supporting each other during their group meetings in September and October. The participants are able to connect and share updates about their art projects. For the participants with dementia it was a social time and a time for connection. For the care partners who are often juggling multiple commitments and obligations, the group meetings were a time for mutual support.
There are 12 artist participants in the art gallery’s program currently working collaboratively and individually with drawing, painting, photography, filmmaking, storytelling, musical theatre, woodworking, sculpture and fabric art.
The Lead Artists are following principles of community engaged practice. They include input from all participants and involve their feedback and learning at every stage. The result so far is an organic and meaningful engagement that is bringing people together, bringing families together, creating new friendships and support networks, and capturing moments of beauty, clarity and connection.
During a coffee break, a few care partners who were visiting together told a Lead Artist how hard it is to find the time to talk to other care partners who are going through similar situations. The large meeting felt like a place where they could finally do that. Participants shared and listened to each other, celebrated each other’s successes and joyful moments, and held space for difficult emotions. One care partner said:
“We talked about meeting as a group or individually. Individual meetings are great but, I also like us meeting as a larger group. It is a time to make connections with the other people. As caregivers we can share our thoughts and concerns and ask questions of each other. For people living with dementia it is a time to be out. For some, it will be an outing that they would not otherwise have. I feel it is important for both the person with Alzheimers and their caregivers. It is reassuring that we are not alone in this journey.
(My spouse) has never painted and now he will just paint some abstract pictures. I think he is releasing some anxiety. We would have never thought of that before this wonderful program. The creative is a wonderful new outlet for us. The bonus is the wonderful people and connections we have made.”
– Care partner/artist participant
For more info about the Dementia Friendly Life Enrichment Program, contact:
Kristen Kosar Dementia Friendly Coordinator SaskAbilities – Yorkton
For more info about Belong Where You Find Yourself, contact:
Jeff Morton Director & Curator Godfrey Dean Art Gallery