Pauline Shaw, Director of Care & Service Development at The Royal Star & Garter Homes, talks about how we perceive the world when living with dementia. She describes a centenary project, involving our five senses, carried out by staff and residents using textiles that were meaningful to the people engaged in the project. The resulting tapestry forms a symbolic and meaningful expression of the people who live and work with dementia.
People who are living with dementia will rely upon their feelings and senses far more than on thoughts, reasoning and judgement. Many treasured memories can be lost; not just about the past, involving family and friends, but they can experience loss about their very own sense of self. We all need to feel safe, for a feeling of belonging.
There is a greater reliance on our five senses; hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste which help to give meaning and which help to safely anchor people in a world which at times must feel very frightening.
A project involving our five ways of perceiving the world around us was recently completed between people living with dementia and the staff team at The Royal Star & Garter Home in Solihull. The aim of the project was to highlight the Charity’s Centenary year, through creative, imaginatively led textile work, meaningful to the people engaged in working together.
It began with a child’s blanket which evokes feelings of warmth, security and memories of nurturing another life with deep emotional attachment. The soft texture of the blanket was used as a way of holding on to and weaving in people’s thoughts and feelings about emotional comfort and to infuse a connection to the things that are most important to us. The blanket also represents longevity as the fabric from childhood is robust and can withstand much play and rough and tumble. One person chose to represent a palm tree because on that day, he was in a place where he was thinking about holidays he had taken with his wife. He could see a sense of something warm and exotic in the branches cut from green fabric and applied to the blanket, which became the centre of this piece.
The team themselves are woven in through the cloth leaves as they too are living in the moment with residents and their lives are intertwined. The leaves are not placed in a straight or symmetrical way; they just appear in a random ‘go with the flow’ way, that’s because there is not a right or wrong or structured path we follow in dementia.
Two other people chose homemade fabric and knitted baby clothes which they felt a connection with and represent their own walk in life through the path of dementia. The feeling of being nurtured or nurturing others is central to this creative project. To reflect the military connections important to so many it is embodied with flags, medals, badges and reminiscences from people’s service days which is the golden thread uniting the people living in The Royal Star & Garter Homes.
Nature is represented and important for the joy that flowers, birds, butterflies bring to people throughout their whole lives…the colours, shapes, sounds and scents of nature evoke positive feelings and memories. The various elements join together to form a symbolic and meaningful expression of connection for the people who live and work with dementia.
With special thanks to the Care Team for their inspiration and for all residents and staff on Roundel for capturing the essence of The Royal Star & Garter Homes through sharing feelings, in the moment and with deeply loving connections.