Hearts and Minds

Over the last 18 months the Elderflowers have been working regularly with Mary who has Alzheimer’s disease. The deterioration in her condition has been less marked than that of other members in her group and the challenge has been for the Elderflowers to find ways to keep developing activities with her, to boost her self-confidence and to encourage her to stay connected to the group.

Throughout her life, Mary has had an interest in the arts, particularly in the area of music. She has a good sense of rhythm and is always tuneful when playing a harmonica or, more recently, a small electric piano, which she plays using the black keys only. She can also pick up a rhythm with the group with clapping, and sometimes conduct a little. It is at these times that she is in most contact with her group.

Mary also enjoys colours and beautiful objects. But it is her rhythmic sensibility in particular that the Elderflowers plan to keep nurturing. As her condition changes this is likely to be the way in which the practitioners can keep her focused. She responds well to one-to-one visits, and the Elderflowers plan to see how she might respond to more challenging requests, for example if she ‘conducts’ the Elderflowers will dance.


“When you get old, you don’t get to experience music informally, it’s always played at you. What you’ve just done is wonderful, thank you, it was lovely and special” – Female participant, Queen Margaret Hospital

‘I just want to take the opportunity to tell you what you are doing here means a lot to me and the whole family. My mother loves you. Bless you.’ – Daughter of participant

“Elderflowers is bringing out a response from clients who normally have no or little response. Clients are starting to recognize practitioners and are showing stimulation of short-term memory.” – Nurse, Findlay House

“Elderflowers have a positive effect on the patients within the ward. They can reach out and find that special something within every individual.” - Charge Nurse, Cauldshiels


The Elderflower project provides a programme of creative and humorous interactions between patients and the artists. Ward 2 is a Old Age Psychiatric ward. Patients interact well with the practitioners and enjoy their visits immensely. One gentleman said after a visit from the Elderflowers "That was wonderful, I really enjoyed my morning I almost felt as if I wasn't in hospital".

Talking to staff in Ward 2 and their experiences of the Elderflower project, One Nurse talked about a lady who was very withdrawn and did not interact a lot with staff. The Elderflowers worked with this lady using scarves and music, she responded and interacted with them throughout the session. Staff noticed that she was a lot more animated and brighter in mood for sometime after their visit.

Another Nurse said she had noticed that some patients could be dismissive of frivolity with Nursing staff, but reacted positively to the Elderflowers. The Elderflowers appear as an extended family of brothers, sisters and cousins and at these sessions they create scenarios for example at one session they appeared as brother and sister, when talking to a patient they told him they were having a disagreement about what they wanted for lunch and did not know the area they asked if he knew of anywhere the patient then became engaged in a conversation about different eating places in the area. This was giving this gentleman the opportunity to share his knowledge and give his opinion These sessions give patients the opportunity to escape from the Hospital environment and routine, and offer a way for them to express themselves therefore feeling valued.

Resources for Occupational Therapists and Nursing staff time is limited.

Staff do not always have time for activities in the ward due to a busy workload. The Elderflower Project contributes greatly to maintaining a person centred approach within this healthcare setting. Charge Nurse Clackmannan Community Hospital.

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