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​​​​​​​​​​​​Arts​ & Dementia

Arts in Hospital has been working to support the needs of patients with cognitive impairment, and particularly dementia in the hospital. In particular we have been introducing live music whenever possible to the wards, as music can remain when other things are forgotten. We have produced this leaflet for carers and staff for inspiration about playing music with people who have dementia ….click here.

Other dementia related work has been the introduction of colour coded artwork in wards to help with wayfinding, also using local scenes to stimulate reminiscence. Creative activity is enormously helpful for stimulation and socialisation and Arts in Hospital provides through a travelling craft trolley which tours the wards alongside other art, cooking and reminiscence activities organised in Barnes Ward Day room.

The Memory Box Project

The Memory Box Project is an exciting reminiscence project funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. Using themed boxes full of wonderful items, smells, sounds and pictures, it aims to ignite the senses to share memories together.

Sessions are held on alternate Mondays and Tuesdays.

Barnes Ward Day Room: 10.30am – 11.30am
Purbeck Ward Day Room   1.30 – 2.30pm
Patients are welcome to invite their visitors to join us. 

Music for a While

I am a great believer in the benefits of art and music for frail older people and those with dementia... James Richards, Consultant Physician and Geriatrician, Clinical lead for Dementia, DCH.

BSO Associate Neil Valentine performing on Barnes Ward

Following on from our 'Refound Sound' project last year which enabled us to play live music with around 1500 patients, staff and visitors at Yeovil and Dorchester Hospitals we are very pleased that we are able to fund this work for another two years thanks to Dorset County Hospital Charity and our project partners the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra who have generously matched the Charity's contribution. 

'Music for a While'  will consist of a 2 year programme of fortnightly live music sessions for patients in various wards as well as 12 public performances at key times of the year, such as celebrating Christmas and Dementia Awareness Week. At other hospitals the programme improved the mood of patients, their level of mobility and their confidence and concentration. It reduced anxiety and agitation, and therefore the need for sedatives, improved sleeping patterns and also nutritional intake.​​

Read more about our wonderful collaboration with t​​​he BSO here.

Listen to Margret, a patient who enjoyed the Music project  here.​

Refound Sound

Music, place​ and memories come together

​Refound Sound is a collaboration between Arts in Hospital based at Dorset County Hospital and the Dementia Care Team at Yeovil District Hospital, thanks to generous support from Arts Council England. The project had there strands; musicians performing live music on wards,  development opportunities for musicians and staff, as well as the appointment of our first ever Composer in Residence.

 Image: Musicians  performing live music on wards

Marc Yeats was commissioned to compose a new music piece about the experience of dementia to be used to promote public awareness of the condition, and how music helps people with cognitive impairment to live better lives. Marc visited Dorset County Hospital and our partners Yeovil Hospital and met with staff and patients to encourage their engagement in the composition and influence his creative process. 

Discover more about our Composer in residence's creative approach to his dementia based installation here: 


Marc's pioneering compo​​sition 'Forget- Me- Not' premiered at Yeovil District Hospital on May 19th to celebrate Dementia Awareness week . The installation will be transferred to Dorset County Hospital in the Autumn and will then be available for touring opportunities.

Explore Marc’s creative process in his blog here:

Check out our Refound article for Arts & Health South West:

Wayfinding, Landscape & Memory


“…good wayfinding design promotes healing because being able to understand their environment provides visitors with a sense of control and empowerment, key factors in reducing stress, anxiety, and fear—feelings that undermine the body’s ability to heal” (Passini and Arthur 1992).

Unfortunately, most hospitals and wards are complex and confusing places. Nothing looks familiar, and visitors, often stressed with demands of an illness or suffering from a condition like dementia, can find orientating themselves difficult. Artworks, particularly when commissioned specifically to assist wayfinding and complementing interior design, provide helpful clues: “The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true in wayfinding” (Huelat, B: 2007). With dementia in particular use of vivid colour coding can improve short-term memory and improve ability; older people find it increasingly hard to distinguish colours on the basis of hue and lightness. 
In Barnes Ward at DCH there are a high proportion of patients with dementia. Arts in Hospital therefore worked with photography students at Arts University Bournemouth to produce four colour coded suites of landscape photos for three bays in the ward, one with mostly blues, one with greens  and one with reds. The local landscape scenes also trigger memories from the past for those with dementia and contribute to reminiscence therapy for this group.

Image: Red Japanese Bridge at Compton Acres (2015), Isobel Taylor.​

Thanks to the student photographers from AUB, Rose Mordaunt, Peter Speller, Isobel Taylor, George Drake and their tutor David Hazel. Funded by the Friends of Dorset County Hospital.​



A Right Old Song And Dance​

​Music participation project

​A Right Old Song and Dance was an Awards for All funded residency at Dorset County Hospital for a storytellers and musicians Sammy Hurden and Tim Laycock to enhance the clinical and social wellbeing of patients (and staff). Over three months they came in to sing and encourage patients to join in. In doing so they found out amazing personal stories about people from all walks of life which they were able to pass on to carers and staff on the ward.​


Read more about the project here:

© Dorset County Hospital 2013

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