Working With People

Living Words is an arts charity that aims to make marginalised people to be better heard and understood. We began life at St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 2007. By listening to people staying in the elderly care unit, Susanna Howard saw how much one-on-one communication in the moment, using sound, silence and spoken & written words, benefited those with late-stage dementia. Those discoveries were fed into Living Words residencies over subsequent years in care homes, nursing homes, community centres, arts centres, day centres, libraries, theatres and hospitals.

The artists and writers on our team ‘listen out loud’. They engage one-to-one and face-to-face with people experiencing a late-stage dementia – and those who feel isolated or disempowered in other ways – listening to and reflecting their words to help them feel heard and valued. To share this work with a wider audience, Living Words develops some individuals’ words as inspiration for high-quality arts events, and other collaborations in the cultural sector.

The main part of our work is Living Words residencies in care homes, across 8 - 15 weeks

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IN CARE HOMES

Care home residencies form the main part of our work. Over the course of 8 to 15 weeks, professional writers, actors and artists collaborate and work one-to-one with participants living with late-stage dementias. The artists and writers on our team ‘listen out loud’. They engage one-to-one and face-to-face with people experiencing a late-stage dementia – and those who feel isolated or disempowered in other ways – listening to and reflecting their words to help them feel heard and valued. Their goal is to enable people with a dementia to express their feelings in the moment. We record these words using the Listen Out Loud methodology and, working with the participant, they make a book together, for the participant to keep, as well as another copy for the care team. Relatives receive additional electronic copies. The books are a tried and tested way of helping people with late-stage dementias to regain their self-worth; workshops with staff working in the care homes are a crucial part of the residency as well as members of staff co-creating their own Living Words books too; and a final book presentation ceremony and reading event, brings all those connected with the process together. Staff receive participation CPD certificates. Through this process, friends and families develop a greater understanding of the participant’s thoughts and feelings, and this helps them think about how best to care for and support the individual’s needs.

IN COMMUNITY AND PEOPLE'S HOMES

In 2019 we began running projects with people affected by dementias and living at home. These projects were in partnerships with local authorities, town councils, libraries and arts organisations, and consist of working with people with a dementia, and also their friends, partners or carers. Running over 5 – 8 sessions, participants co-create their own Living Words books. Our writers also work on an ongoing basis with privately funded participants. At the end of the residency we have a celebration event and sharing of words, often within a larger community setting. There may also be additional artistic outcomes for the community to share, for example - high quality posters to go around the town featuring words and images of people living with dementia. Contact us to discuss in more details.

SUPPORTING CARE HOME STAFF

It can be easy for people who give so much of themselves to others to forget to nurture themselves. We give staff creative ways to look after their own needs so they can be better placed to care for the needs of others. Staff are engaged right from the start of each Living Words residency. Through a series of workshops, we help them understand how best to incorporate the Living Words programme into their care homes, and a number of care staff also experience the Listen Out Loud process and receive their own Living Words book.

The workshop sessions encourage them to reflect and inspire them to think creatively, so that they are better equipped to communicate with their residents using the Living Words books. Hosting a Living Words residency gives staff a chance to express how they feel about the words of the participants, and ultimately a better understanding of the people in their care.

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Every home needs to have a Living Words residency. How did we not know the emotions of our residents? The books of their words are now informing their care plans. You have made a real difference to our residents, staff and relatives.

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Isobel Nyirenda, manager at Meadows House, Kidbrooke.

“You can see they’ve opened up. It helps in so many ways… They have worked with people that usually can’t join in groups… This is the best project we have ever done. Thank you.”

Phyllis Etukondu, Activity Co-ordinator, Westmead

“I have been waiting 15 years for someone to help me hear how the residents are feeling and thinking. Thank you.”

Anon carer, Islington

"When I listed to Lorette’s poem I felt amazed and I could not refrain my tears. It was really hard to believe that a person with such an advanced state of dementia could talk like that and express herself in such a poetic manner… like a glimmer of light from the darkness of her illness." Cristina, Butterworth Centre, London.

About us

Arts and literature charity working with people experiencing dementia and isolated people.

Call us: +44 (0)7967 502 506
Call us: +44 (0)7967 502 506
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