Puppetry with adults
using care services
(and with experiences
of dementia)

Feedback about our work:

'We’ve noticed a higher level of interaction between staff and residents’ says Donna Forbes, manager of Barchester Home Mo Dhachaidh, ‘and the communication about puppets continues between the sessions too. The work is highly stimulating and motivating.’

‘It’s wonderful as a nurse’ says Michelle ‘to see the interaction and participation….some people will go that wee bit further,.. it’s amazing what you can do… it’s all about communication.’

'I think the puppets are fantastic' says Gail (participant)

'My mother-in-law loves the puppets, she asks them to sit beside her on the bed.'

Listen to feedback from the first puppetry and dementia project we ran a few years ago:

What's this?

The importance of creativity in care work

As people [with dementia] lose the ability to name, to conceptualise what things are, they are forced into much more visual ways of thinking about the world.” 2004, Dr Bruce Miller

We know 110 per cent how powerful puppetry and creativity is for communication, (with or without words). The ordinary becomes extraordinary ... and we are privileged to do this work. Our work is underpinned by a set of principles, and this poem:

‘Incredible that anything exists,
this hotch-potch world of
marvels and trivia;
and which is which?’

Kathleen Raine

We are excited about all the research that says creativity and imagination can remain in tact right to the very end of our lives. Dr Gene Cohen, (1) who studied the effects of aging, found that creativity continues to develop throughout life. His studies also showed that working with professional artists has a positive impact on physical and emotional well being.

Zenwing Puppets' pioneering narrative-puppetry and dementia programmes are gaining recognition. We have given talks about our work (Creativity in Care) in Perth-shire, London, and Milton Keynes.

How it began:

Karrie has been using puppetry in care work for several years, however in 2008, with a small grant from Puppet Animation Scotland we studied dementia. We read various text-books and visited the
Dementia Services Development Centre, Stirling University (an excellent resource). We also shadowed the wonderful, inspirational Hearts & Minds practitioners, who work with people with dementia in creative, humorous and well considered ways.

We spent several months developing, planning and trying out various puppetry ideas to create activities that could be accessed by people who may have communication or memory difficulties. Activities ranged from sandpapering puppet parts; using vintage puppets; making puppets; using common themes; sing-a-long puppets and Edna-eski’s unique renditions.

In order to know if the activities were relevant, we ran programmes over several weeks in care settings for people with dementia. This was both a moving and inspiring experience, and our grateful thanks go to all the participants, staff and relatives who gave their consent. We also appreciate the support and interest shown by Alzheimer Scotland staff and service users.

A DVD of the project for participants and their families was created. Film-maker Andy Crossan captured some wonderful moments. For images of some of the activities click

Karrie is now working on a puppetry toolkit and booklet to accompany a DVD. The puppetry toolkit aims to help create an enjoyable shared connection through the magical world of puppetry to increase a sense of well-being. This is aimed at relatives, carers, people with dementia and puppeteers working in care settings.

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