Article by Alex Coulter, Director of the National Centre for Creative Health, Victoria Hume, Executive Director of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance
The wellbeing of those living and working in care settings couldn’t be more critical at this time. As the pandemic recedes, the lasting impact on mental health, a different kind of long COVID, is the focus of much discussion and concern.
Alex Coulter, Director of the National Centre for Creative Health
Victoria Hume, Executive Director of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance
The wellbeing of those living and working in care settings couldn’t be more critical at this time. As the pandemic recedes, the lasting impact on mental health, a different kind of long COVID, is the focus of much discussion and concern. The arts and creativity were a lifeline for many during lockdown, and in care homes across the country heroic and heart-warming efforts, from choirs in the driveway to Zoom workshops, enabled care home staff to stay connected and support residents struggling in very frightening circumstances. Organisations such as Live Music Now adapted their work rapidly and imaginatively in their live-streamed interactive music sessions and were able to reach thousands of care home residents even during the height of the pandemic.
Live Music Now are one of 20 case studies of work reaching people in adult residential care featured in a new collaborative report led by the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. The report, “How creativity and culture are supporting people in institutions during covid-19”, recommends further, longer-term investment not just in the work itself but in the partnerships, research and training that underpin it. Significantly, another case study, from Age Cymru’s cARTrefu programme, reported a Social Return on Investment of ¬£6.48 for every pound invested in training care home staff to undertake creative activities themselves – suggesting this is an investment which will reap significant rewards in the medium to long term.
The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a strategic partner of the recently launched National Centre for Creative Health, the NCCH. We are thrilled that Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, has joined the board of trustees of the NCCH and we look forward to working closely with Care England over the coming years to support the spread of creative health approaches in care homes.
The NCCH was formed in response to the recommendations in the Creative Health report, the result of a two-year inquiry led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. The evidence base continues to grow with recent reviews such as that by the World Health Organisation exploring how the arts can benefit our health and wellbeing, including by encouraging health-promoting behaviours, supporting caregiving and end-of-life care.
We know that NICE recommends meaningful activities to support the mental wellbeing of older people in care homes, and that older people themselves value the arts and culture, but sometimes it is the individual stories that help bring home the impact. Residents participating in music sessions told Plymouth Music Zone that “we appreciate everything that happens on these days. We love the music and we love you”; one participant said “If Dave hadn’t been phoning, I would have just given up. I love PMZ so much, particularly as you reach out to people who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance.”
We look forward to supporting NAPA’s National Day of Arts in Care Homes on 24th September. Another of the report’s recommendations is simply to “celebrate, acknowledge, and learn from this work” and we hope to encourage more and more people to do just that.