BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Arts activities can improve social connectedness and foster reciprocity between people living with dementia and their caregivers. The extent to which the arts can help shape attitudes towards dementia remains unclear. This paper explores the impact of a 12-week visual arts program "Dementia and Imagination" on the attitudes of family and professional caregivers through a mixed-methods longitudinal investigation, underpinned by a conceptual framework of the arts in dementia care.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: One hundred and forty-six family and professional caregivers were recruited across three settings in England and Wales (residential care homes, a county hospital, and community venues). Quantitative and qualitative data on caregivers' attitudes and perceptions of the impact of the arts program were collected through interviews at three time points.
RESULTS: Thematic analysis identified four themes shared across the caregivers: (1) Recognizing capabilities, (2) Social connectedness, (3) Improvements to well-being, and (4) Equality and personhood. Two further themes were distinct to family caregivers: (5) Duration of the effects of the art program, and (6) Enriched perspective. The final theme Inspiring professional development was distinct to the professional caregivers. The quantitative analysis found no effect for caregivers' attitude change over time. Family caregivers scored significantly lower than professional caregivers at each of the three time points.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Art programs have the potential to make visible the capabilities of the people living with dementia, enabling caregivers to see the person behind the condition. This study highlights practice implications for future implementation, such as the role of the arts in dementia care education.