National implementation of the Alzheimer program in Dutch musea (WC 2013-091)


Starting date: 24/02/2014

National implementation of the Alzheimer program in Dutch museums

Starting date: 01/02/2014

Spring 2013 the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven started a special program for people with dementia and their caregivers. This program, which is titled Onvergetelijk, consists of interactive tours in the museum. Looking at art in an interactive way offers people who are dealing with Alzheimer's disease the opportunity to express themselves and to engage in a dialogue with their environment. The museum offers a safe and inspiring environment to get in touch with peers. During the program the focus lays on the positive, creative and inspiring, not the disease.

The Alzheimer program in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven is modelled after the Alzheimer program of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Here, a first efficacy study was done by Mittelman and Epstein (2009), researchers of the Psychological Research and Support Program of the New York University Centre of Excellence for Brain Aging and Dementia. The results of this pilot research, in which took part 39 people with beginning dementia and 39 caregivers, pointed out that both the people with dementia and the caregivers were in a better mood directly after the guided tour then before (measured with the Smiley Face Assessment Scale). Also, a positive trend was observed in the self-esteem of the people with dementia (Rosenberg Self Esteem scale 1965). The caregivers experienced a better quality of life and more social support from their environment (QOL-AD; Logsdon et al, 1995). During the guided tours the reactions were positive and people had a lot attention for the pieces of art and the guide. Almost no negative reactions were perceived.

All people with dementia enjoyed the museum visit and ninety per cent found their mood was better afterwards. This was the outcome of the questionnaire which the participants filled out at home after the museum visit. The caregivers especially appreciated the participation in the program because it is an activity they can do together with the person with dementia. Special about this program is that it not only leads to an improvement in the quality of life of the person with dementia, but it also has positive effects on the caregiver and the relationship between them.

Because of the positive outcomes of the program at MoMA and the first experiences in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, more museums in the Netherlands became interested in setting up the Onvergetelijk program. The Stedelijk Museum and the Van Abbemuseum see it as their social responsibility to share their expertise on this topic with other museums by means of an implementation and training program. For three years, this program is being offered to 10 museums in The Netherlands (3 or 2 months of training per museum).