June 24, 2013, by Zoë Goodwin

Inside Out of Mind – a powerful illustration of life on a dementia ward

So it was a normal Thursday morning in the press office. I was writing something, probably a blog, when I got a phone call from my manager who was on her way to see the Inside Out of Mind play at Lakeside. She had done a lot of work on promoting the production so was invited along to join the audience. She asked me if I was interesting in going if she could get me a ticket. Yes…of course. So five minutes later I was running (a slow jog really, stopping for walking breathers every few seconds), trying to get to Lakeside so I could get in before it started. After running to the wrong building first, I ended up creeping into the theatre, trying not to interrupt the already started play.

Due to the last minute opportunity to go, I wasn’t really aware what I was watching at all and who the audience was so the first part of the play I was a little puzzled.

However, during the interval I managed to catch up with my manager who informed me that we were in the middle of a day-long conference for staff from the QMC and City Hospital whose day involved attending the play and then workshops to better understand patients with dementia.

Right…this play was starting to make more sense. And once I understood the play, I started to really enjoy it – It was fascinating, funny and moving.

Inside Out of Mind was written and directed by Tanya Myers, and enters into the experience of dementia care. What’s more…all of these experiences are real, based on extensive and rigorous participant observation in dementia wards by researchers Simon Bailey, Kezia Scales and Joanne Lloyd over a three year period.

The purpose of this play aims to impact positively on the care of those with dementia, to encourage empathy and intuitive listening. It is a powerful illustration of life on a dementia ward from the perspective of the patients, the staff and visitors.

A powerful line in the play has stuck in my mind: ‘a ward with no name’. This just sums up an important message which is portrayed throughout the play – the importance of recognising the work of all the healthcare workers and nurses who care for people with dementia and the challenges this job entails.

This play was commissioned by Social Scientists at the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Mental Health as a powerful way of making their findings more immediately accessible to those directly involved in the healthcare sectors as well as the general public. Personally, I think it’s an intuitive and insightful way to disseminate this kind of research.

After the performance the audience were given the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions to the researchers, the writer and the actors. Many interesting comments were made such as how precise the portrayals of the characters were and how it was easy to personally relate to them. They were happy with how the day-to-day challenges were depicted, although they felt the mass amount of paperwork was not represented fully during the play.

For me it provided the unique opportunity to enhance my understanding of what it means to have dementia and the difficulties our NHS staff face when caring for them in our hospitals.  I thoroughly enjoyed this play and feel like it has shown me another world hidden within the ward with no name.

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