Family Liaison Practitioners use arts and crafts in their weekly virtual support groups run for siblings, to promote social opportunities and reduce feelings of isolation often felt by siblings of children with a serious or terminal condition. They have taken great delight in sharing their stories through writing, pictures and puppets and have created their own Show and Tell times to celebrate their works of art.
We have a Facebook page for families and an information email, which includes a weekly virtual support timetable that we ran throughout lockdown and continue to run for children who are unable to safely access their communities. Our group sessions are open to all who access Demelza’s services and families are invited to attend when they wish. For some, this means they attend several groups every week, and others may only attend at times of heightened anxiety or when they need additional support. Others may not want to join groups, so videos have been made to help raise confidence with crafting, relaxing story telling or age-appropriate songs and music.
Creative art therapies
Creative arts therapies can be a space to hold difficult emotional states, enabling them to begin to be processed. Acknowledging fear and feelings surrounding the potential death of a child is often immensely difficult for people of all ages and it can be a challenge to talk about. Creative Arts Therapists at Demelza support people to acknowledge these feelings and to express them in a creative way within a nurturing environment. Demelza offer specialist creative arts therapy sessions six days a week, through digital platforms into family homes, schools, hospitals and at our hospice sites.
Until last year, the creative services at Demelza were delivered primarily within the hospice setting or in the family home. COVID-19 changed all that, and in the chaos and uncertainty of lockdowns and shielding, the teams worked tirelessly to adapt rapidly and continue working closely with families. Virtual music therapy groups, one-to-one music therapy, sibling support groups, Little Dots groups for pre-schoolers, art therapy groups and one-to-one art therapy were all delivered virtually to children and families.
We have been challenged to consider the wider home environments and incorporate every day household objects and materials to provide stimulating, creative, fun and inclusive experiences. Our Family Support Team have been able to secure funding for families that haven’t had access to iPads, so they can access therapy sessions through digital platforms. Through our dedication to rigorous COVID-19 procedures, our Creative Arts Therapists were able to offer their service face-to-face for children receiving end-of-life care.
For those with disabilities that significantly affect their ability to communicate and be independent, Demelza created music sensory bags, which are sent to families. Each bag has an accompanying digital playlist of songs. This music was composed and recorded for Demelza by an honorary Musician in Residence. Each song has an accompanying sensory item which is provided in the bag and includes greaseproof paper for crunchy leaves in the autumn bag, knitted seaweed (knitted by our volunteers) for the summer bag, a red feather to represent a robin in the winter bag, and rainbow ribbons in the spring bag.
Creative arts are a part of the family journey; even after a child has died. When accessing end-of-life care, we support families to compose songs, record music to play at a child’s funeral or memorial service and support with a playlist to be played to the child whilst in Demelza’s Bereavement Suite. At a parent’s request, a Music Therapist sang and gently played the guitar next to a dead infant in a moses basket, as the parents’ culture believed that the baby’s spirit should depart with music.