Creative Conversations' workshops, research project in North Wales

Cath Peach, House Manager of The Cottage nursing home in Mold, Flintshire kindly took the time to answer some questions about her first experience of taking part in research.

The Cottage took part in ‘Creative Conversations’: an arts-in-health approach to communication, which was a partnership between Bangor University, Flintshire Social Services, and Dementia Positive, that aimed to develop a care staff development programme using the arts to improve interactions between care staff and residents living with dementia. 

Why did you decide to take part in the research?

We are always interested in getting involved with things that link us to anything in the community and wider. We thought it would be interesting and have never been involved as a home in a research project. Because it was specifically aimed at dementia care, we saw it as a free training opportunity, and the more knowledge and information we have access to, the more we can help our residents.

What did taking part involve?

We were approached initially with an invitation by Flintshire Social Services, who had teamed up with Bangor University for the project. We then had meetings with researchers who explained what would happen to us as staff. We discussed potential topics that we would like to cover, as well as timings and locations that would suit us for the sessions that we would be taking part in. Practically within the home, it involved organising residents and their relatives to inform them of the proceedings and invite them to participate. We were given the dates, and then attended a series of creative workshops locally. Within the home, a researcher came once or twice a month to sit in communal areas and observe the participating staff and residents.

What helped the process to go well?

The fact that we were initially approached by a staff member from Flintshire Social Services, who we already know and trust, made it less daunting. It was very well organised from the beginning; researchers ensured everything ran as smoothly as it could. Meetings happened in the home, which meant there was no disruption, and everything was explained fully.

Researchers provided letters and stamped addressed envelopes to be sent out to relatives of those taking part. The letter included information about the research and an invitation to come and meet the researchers. We were provided with booklets and a poster with contact details and photos of the research team, so that everybody knew who the researchers were and expected to see them. The research team was very professional, friendly and approachable. There was no disruption whatsoever when researchers were in the home – we forgot the researcher was in the room sometimes!

What were the benefits of taking part?

There were lots!

Workshops opened our minds more, allowed us to experiment with our own ideas as well as theirs. One thing would lead to another. For example, we discovered that a couple of residents love poetry, and then found ourselves looking for material to share with them and discussing poems with them.

The project also gave us a better understanding of dementia and how to communicate more effectively. Staff who attended the workshops got to know each other better too – it brought them closer together. The enthusiasm was noticeable!

It was nice to meet staff from other care homes too, and interesting to see how other homes are run. It was also interesting to hear their feedback after the tasks; sometimes they had interpreted the work differently to us, but with all results being equally as good.

Were there any downsides to taking part?

It wasn’t long enough! We were hungry for more.

I honestly cannot think of any downsides, the research didn’t disrupt our home at all. Rotas had to be done to coincide with workshops, but because we had advance notice of dates and times, this was not a problem. We were even asked at the beginning what times would be best, to least disturb the day to day running of the home.

What advice would you give to researchers about doing care home research?

Liaise with the homes as much as possible, especially on best times and days for them, to enable it to run smoothly.

Work alongside them to create a good relationship. Have as many meetings as needed at the beginning to get the information across – it will put participating staff, residents and residents families at ease.

Keep it simple, and make the workshops enjoyable. Also, if you are asking staff to put something into practice, keep it optional and don’t put too much pressure.

Provide tea and cake – it always goes down well!

What advice would you give other care homes about research?

Do it!

It is your contribution to the future. As a manager, if you’re enthusiastic your staff will follow. We have benefitted from taking part research, and I’m sure will too. If you’re prepared to get stuck in, and have a positive attitude to what you’re involved in, you will benefit.