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Dramatic connections help clients 'feel alive'

Written by Joanne Isaac, Senior Manager (Communications and Campaigns) with integratedliving

Throughout 2019, clients at integratedliving's three activity centres on the Central Coast took part in a program called Dramatic Connections. The program was led by Drama Therapist, Dannielle Jackson and integratedliving’s Dementia Services Manager, Kerry Garth.

Drama therapy can contribute to improvements in the physical, social, emotional and cognitive health of people living with dementia. By developing the Dramatic Connections program, Kerry and Dannielle set out to improve the health of integratedliving’s clients to support their independence and empowerment.

Dannielle worked in 10 week blocks rotating between the three Activity Centres before working on a final ensemble project, where the clients from the three Centres came together to create a short film, Where The Lost Things Go. The film was screened at Avoca Cinema in November where the red carpet was rolled out for our very talented clients and their carers. Our dedicated team members and volunteers were also thrilled to be part of this special day.

The original 10 week blocks focused on the clients gaining confidence and building connections with one another. They worked with personal stories to share a sense of self with each other and explored through fairytales and fables to develop skills in drama and performance. The final film-based segment of the program involved the participation of all clients in some way. With the help of Dannielle, clients brainstormed themes and worked through a creative writing process that incorporated their own memories into a narrative about family, Christmas and transformation.

The clients then worked at creating the props, sourcing and designing the costumes and rehearsing their parts. Some clients even made costumes or built sets at home. On the day of shooting, everyone had a responsibility and made a contribution from performing, technical lighting, fog machine operation, hair and makeup and set dressing.

The clients were the lead contributors in all creative choices, to ensure that the finished product gave them a sense of achievement and ownership of their creative capabilities.

Clients reported that they felt ‘happy’, ‘tremendous’ and ‘relaxed and interested’ while taking part in the Dramatic Connections program. 97% of clients said they had a positive response to the program and 83% reported an improved sense of wellbeing. One client put it like this: “I have noticed a change in myself over the course of the program. I feel a lot happier and more confident.” Another client simply said being part of Dramatic Connections, “makes me feel alive.”

For Kerry and Dannielle, the program exceeded all their objectives.

“The clients really came alive. They came out of their shells and were so involved and present during the entire film making process. They were as captivated as they are captivating in what is a very creative and collaborative endeavour.” said Kerry.

“Carers and families haven’t seen their loved ones like this for a long time – really animated, joyous, laughing, surprised and happy.” Dannielle explained.

Carer, Joan Brennan summed up the feeling amongst family and friends at the film premiere.

“I thought it was fantastic. So much effort had gone into it. It was incredible. What can I say about the whole integratedliving community – they’re amazing!”


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