Dementia Care: Thinking Creatively About Each and Every One of Us

Over 70 million people worldwide will have dementia by 2030.

One current approach to caring for older people with dementia is person-centred care – an approach that recognizes the uniqueness and understanding of the world from the perspective of the older person with dementia. Carers practice a range of person-centred care techniques, from reminiscing together with an older person in order to understand their life, to experiencing the world from each older person’s unique perspective.

Creative problem solving can fulfil important roles in person-centred care. Applied successfully, it can produce new and valuable outcomes, i.e. care activities that both recognize a sense of uniqueness and are new to the care of an older person with dementia.

However, so far, creative problem solving has not been very widely applied to support person-centred care.

To explore the potential of creative problem solving in person-centred care, we previously encouraged carers to experiment with different creativity techniques. For example, residential carers used the What-if technique to challenge existing barriers to understanding the resident from different perspectives, then generate new care ideas in response to these barriers. They used the Brain Writing technique to combine and evolve ideas generated with other techniques. And they used the Other Worlds technique to generate ideas to manage behaviours that are challenging in different, less constrained domains such as social lives and different cultures. The carers singled out this Other Worlds technique because, unlike the others, it purposefully transferred knowledge and ideas from sources outside of their immediate knowledge and understanding.

However, to support creative thinking in person-centred care more effectively, we have also developed a new software application called Care’N’Share to support creative collaborations between carers to improve the person-centred care of older people beyond each carer’s own current knowledge and understanding. The software application was developed to enable carers to share good care practices and, more importantly, to think creatively about practices in order to apply them individually to residents during person-centred care.

To use the application, a carer simply enters an unstructured natural language description of a care situation in which an older person is having trouble eating, often drops food on the floor and is unable to maintain a balanced diet. The application then invokes creative search software to retrieve good care practices from the application’s case base that have different forms of similarity to the entered care situation.Screen

For example, one case that might be retrieved describes a resident not eating the food in front of him, which is presented to carers in 5 parts. The first part describes the original care situation – the person not eating his food. The second describes how different people – care staff, family members and the resident – reacted to the situation, and presented to encourage the users to reflect and learn from the situation. The third describes the different care activities that were implemented to resolve the care situation, for example a physical health check-up and changing the colours of the plates. The fourth part presents automatically generated nudges to the users to think creatively using information about the retrieved case in order to resolve the original situation. These creative nudges are generated by the application from the retrieved case content, for example the carers spoke to their manager, who got advice from an occupational therapist (OT), as the carers knew the problem was not with swallowing or the type of foods because the carers ‘d seen John eat and enjoy the food without problems with prompting. Can you adapt this action plan to your situation? At any point, the users can request the application to generate new creative nudges to trigger creative thinking to resolve the current care situation. The fifth presents a set of links to external training resources relevant to the case, such as SCIE guidance about nutritional care and older people.

Care’N’Share offers a new way to learn about older people with dementia – with creative problem solving in response to situations that are encountered during everyday care. Explore it and its creative guidance at http://carenshare.city.ac.uk. You can also learning about the creativity techniques mentioned in this blog at http://becreative.city.ac.uk.

 

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The Creative A-Team

Ever wished that you had the creative A-Team on your project? Top architects, artists, designers and other creatives? Well, now, at the click of a button, you can.

Screenshot of the Bright Sparks website
The Bright Sparks app showing one creative persona

Well, sort of. A creative A-Team populated by digital versions of these great people.

Our new BrightSparks app builds on Michalko’s Hall of Fame creativity technique. The technique allows problem solvers to explore how famous people will help solve their challenge by using the unique knowledge and practices of these people. The BrightSparks app supports use of the technique without the need for human facilitation – you can use it alone, in groups, or workshop settings. We have added creative clues, which when applied to the personas, guide users to think creatively about designs.

The technique is simple to use:

  1. Identify a challenge that you or your project team would like to solve;
  2. Use BrightSparks to find insights from the profiled personas and by applying the creative clues;
  3. Write down your ideas on paper or capture them electronically by using the link to the MindMup visual mind mapping tool, available with BrightSparks;
  4. Explore the set of clues until the creative potential of the persona has been exhausted.
  5. Repeat the exercise with new personas to ensure that new and creative ideas are generated.

Now it’s time to collect your own Creative A-Team. Go to http://brightsparks.city.ac.uk/. We love it when a plan comes together.

James Lockerbie and Neil Maiden