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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of man playing a guitar (Concord Community Music School)
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8.5: Evaluating People with Dementia

Guided observation is a method often used to evaluate people with dementia. Tools like surveys and interviews may work as well, depending on each participant’s level of cognition. While you want to honor older adults’ ability to make choices and be self-reflective, consider designing an evaluation for professional caregivers or family members to complete.

Program Example: Guided Observation

The Greater Cincinnati chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association conducted an evaluation of Memories in the Making using an observational instrument. One staff member observed and evaluated one participant for one 60-minute session, measuring objective and subjective indicators of each person’s affect (feeling or emotion) state and self-esteem. Observations were completed when six staff persons observed and evaluated 41 artist participants at the six sites. 105

 

Anne Basting and John Killick explore evaluation-related issues in The Arts and Dementia Care 106:

Measuring the success of arts projects is always difficult because the responses to art are of such a personal nature. With people with dementia, it is especially problematic because of the communication difficulties frequently encountered. We favor a multisided approach, involving all those concerned with the project, and even those whom it may only have touched indirectly. Evaluation could include any or all of the following:

  1. Interviews with participants.
  2. Questionnaires filled in by staff and relatives.
  3. Journals kept by the artist(s).
  4. Videos of sessions (these don’t have to be of professional quality, just for the record: to remind you of what occurred).
  5. Sound recordings of sessions (again, very basic, but hopefully with sufficient clarity for you to be able to hear contributions).
  6. Photographs of sessions (not for publicity purposes but to catch the moments as they fly).

In finding out from people with dementia themselves their reactions to an arts program, we need to bear in mind both the difficulties they may experience in accessing their memories of what has been provided, and those involving language and the formulation of answers to questions.

In order to stimulate recall, some or all of the following methods can be used:

  1. Showing extracts from videos.
  2. Playing sound recordings of sessions.
  3. Showing photographs of sessions.
  4. Showing props/tools/artifacts used or made in the sessions.
  5. Showing evaluation cards with words that describe emotional states such as “silly” or “funny.”

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Appendix 7: Evaluation Tools

Memories in the Making Evaluation Instrument

New Horizons Music Evaluation Form

Empowerment Group Care Partner Survey

Empowerment Group Survey: Initial

Empowerment Group Survey: Six Months

How to Measure an Objective