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Arts and Health in Regional Australia

Margaret AllenMargaret Allen

Margaret is manager of Hastings District Respite Care Centres which dementia respite care for people living in the community of the Hastings/ Port Macquarie area She is a registered nurse with post graduate qualifications in dementia studies and has many years experience in aged care. Margaret has recently completed a Masters degree in nursing.

Among her many roles Margaret has worked with Alzheimer's Australia (NSW), initiated partnerships to develop community art programs for people living with dementia, established a GP memory assessment program, undertaken clinical and management roles in residential aged care and taught on many educational programs.

Margaret is passionate about reducing the stigma of dementia and the importance of community inclusion for people living with dementia. She sees the delay in accessing day respite care and socialisation as a major barrier to supporting people with dementia. Margaret strives to make person-centred care a reality for people with dementia who use the services and is excited about the success of the creative arts projects at HDRC. Currently she is a member of the Port Macquarie Dementia Friendly Community committee.

Margaret values spending time with family and enjoys walking along the beautiful beaches or kayaking on the local waterways of Port Macquarie.

Raising the Curtain on the Theatre for Memories

"Raising the Curtain on the Theatre for Memories" was a new program provided by HDRC, as part of their day respite service for people living with dementia in the Port Macquarie Hastings area of NSW. The program was developed in response to a request made by clients and carers of the service. The project recognised that everyone had the right to express their creative talents contributing to a feeling of accomplishment, dignity and fulfilment. Having fun was a major part of the project./p>

Over 20 weeks, 17 participants, staff and volunteers took part in a series of workshops and performances. The project was led by a drama tutor who had many years of experience teaching arts and drama in the community. The tutor was an integral part of the project as she created an upbeat experience which contributed positive behaviour and improved mood of participants./p>

Through the weekly workshops the participants created 2 performances that they wrote together and were performed in the community. Music was an essential part of the workshops and promoted memories, fun and fostered communication amongst participants. Much of the script was based on stories and songs from the client's earlier memories taking advantage of retained long-term memory for people living with dementia./p>

The impact of the project on clients was wide-ranging. Carers reported increased communication and enhanced wellbeing of participants. Staff observed participants demonstrating skills they had never seen before eg expression of feelings, humour, increased independence. The group became cohesive and friendships were formed. Participants gained confidence and their contribution to the script development increased each week. This project has led to the delivery of a new weekly Creative Arts program as part of the regular dementia respite services.