‘Theatre as an eye-opener’: How theatre may contribute to knowledge about living close to persons with dementia

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Abstract

The aim of the study was to show how theatre may yield insight into living close to persons with dementia. Six focus group interviews with health providers and close relatives were conducted. The informants, recruited by the local dementia associations and nursing homes in three Norwegian towns, were invited to see the theatre play Our Wonderful World. Further, they were asked to send written reflections from during and after the play to the project group within one week. Transcripts from the interviews and reflection notes were analysed inspired by a phenomenological approach. After discussion and reflection on each member’s preliminary themes, a common meaning of the informants’ experiences were gained. Informants gave written informed consent and The Norwegian Social Sciences Data Services assessed the project. Data showed that the two groups of informants had different knowledge of the patients’ earlier life and thoughts of the future. They became aware of how different they experienced their responsibility, and they expressed different attitudes as to how open one should be about the illness. Findings are summarised in four themes: Bright memories and sombre views of the future, Life responsibility versus professional responsibility and Shielding versus openness. The drama creates emotional engagement that enabled the informants to transcend their personal experiences and gain new knowledge.

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