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Mentoring and Learning

for artists and health practitioners

On a rolling basis a series of three sessions introducing Artists to best practice when working with older people experiencing various cognative challenges is delivered. They are delivered online and in person by Sarah Cairns,  Activities Co-ordinator at St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital and lead national trainer in Dementia Care.

GROUP TRAINING SESSION #PART 1 (online or in person)

Arts for Health, Working with people living with Dementia

A professional development session aimed at artists working in care settings and care workers delivering arts programmes. The sessions will inform the learners’ practices when working with people who have memory loss and dementia. Sarah Cairns will inform on conditions and explain methods and techniques to enhance arts practitioner’s communication skills.


Arts for Health, Exploring Working with Cognitive Difference

This professional development session seeks to further inform arts and health practitioners when working with people who are experiencing memory loss and dementia. Continuing the conversation from part 1 participant are invited to consider techniques for good communication and making their environment work better for their work. The latter part of the session serves as a clinic to address specific challenges.

MENTORING  #PART 3 (on site, in person)

Learning more about Cognitive Difference

This series of outreach mentoring sessions takes place over three months with two artists working with Sarah Cairns on site, to develop facilitation techniques, creative approaches and on site structures when working in healthcare settings with people who have memory loss and dementia. The one-to-one mentoring responds to a self-conducted learning needs analysis to address specific on site challenges.

“The outreach mentor sessions have been fruitful and informative. Each centre has been very welcoming and staff are clearly behind the AfH programme. The artists are dedicated to bringing the participants a high quality programme, we have worked together to fine tune the workings of the programme in each centre and explore supportive ways of working with people with dementia and other cognitive differences.” Sarah Cairns


Artists in Healthcare, Learner Programme

This learner programme took place in 2017 with five composers and again 2022 with three artists from music, literary and visual art background.

The artists are invited to work alongside the core team for a series of sessions, while taking part in the team meertings and Dementia Training. The artists are then invited to deliver a project solo with off site mentor support.

Placement Programme

Arts for Health placement takes place annually in autumn and follows a flexible sixteen week programme of shadowing, planning and delivery under the supervision of Arts for Health core team artists. The programme invites submissions from artists with an identified and specific interest in learning and developing their professional practice in working with older people in healthcare settings.

To date the there have been nine artists accepted onto this programme since the placement began in 2010.


At the outset, the placement artist shadows an AfH artist to establish the basics; meet the artists’ team, navigate the working environment, take a supporting role during weekly workshops and get to know the care staff and the participants’ interests and capacity.


The next step is for the Placement Artist to establish a project plan for the programme with the Arts for Health Artist. The plan must fit into the overall programme aims and must prioritise the welfare and cultural requirements of the participants. It should provide creative opportunities for the residents in the long-stay unit, supporting access to and engagement with the arts for older people in this context. It should offer an element of challenge and interest beyond standard transferral of skills and reflect the artist’s professional practice. It can be in any artform. The level of collaboration with the AfH Artist can be negotiated at this point.


The Placement Artist should take a lead role in the delivery of their project with a small group of older residents in the long-stay unit. The supervising artist will advise where appropriate and offer holding support initially and quietly observe throughout to support when needed.

The Placement Artist is expected to learn about and engage in best practice, this includes documenting their work, keeping a reflective journal, attending team meetings, engaging in pre and post workshop discussion and submitting documentary evidence of the experience, along with a short written report.