There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia who could benefit from music and the Music for Dementia campaign is calling for music to be made freely available for them to help improve quality of life. To help people access what is currently available, the Campaign has launched the first ever Musical Map for Dementia, which is already helping to connect people to services in their local area. www.musicalmap.co.uk
Joanne Booth has been a care worker for many years. Along with specialist Admiral nurses, she is caring for 82 people who live with dementia at the Ashwood Care Centre in Warminster. Joanna loves incorporating music into her work. She feels it is a powerful method of communicating that evokes emotions such as joy and laughter. This is particularly important in the holiday season.
Says Joanna “I have sung with residents who are largely non-verbal, but when a familiar song comes on the radio or is sung it gives me such pleasure to witness them smile, look around and join in. I can see the joy in their faces and body language. Sometimes individuals choose not to get involved as a group but listen to their own personal playlist. Some residents sit in their own room and sing away contentedly in their own surroundings.
We have musical activities, co-ordinated by our wonderful Coordinators Claire, Natalie and Natasha. We also have a dementia choir visit us and love taking residents on trips to sing or watch live music with the choir.
I have found music not only brings back memories and emotions but can give reassurance and recognition of places, tasks and people. A lovely lady, I care for, makes up tunes when she sees me, and I sing the tune when I see her. This makes us both smile! I find that songs can help when making up a tune to daily tasks like brushing teeth, having a wash, getting ready for the day then having a cup of tea together. One lady taught me a song about a nice cup of tea that reminded her of a song her mother used to sing to sing to her.
Music is not only for lifting spirits and getting involved or reminiscing but can be relaxing and comforting. To have a gentle tune in the background I have found can relax some people even if they are feeling tired or agitated.
Sometimes if I go into work humming a tune guaranteed someone will say ooh your happy and it reflects on the atmosphere, and sparks conversation. I love my role as a carer, it can be hard and sad on occasions but with the help of music communication is made a lot easier!
Ashwood’s Music Coordinator Claire Palmer has noticed that during music sessions residents who look asleep will usually tap fingers or toes. Some smile and sing and want to dance. She says “We have residents who barely speak who will sing along to familiar tunes. Music can unlock memories and prompt discussion. Music is magic”
Grace Meadows, Programme Director at Music for Dementia 2020 and a senior music therapist says: “There are hundreds of thousands of people who could benefit from the work of people such as Joanne and we as a campaign are calling to make music freely available for all those living with dementia. The science proves that music helps to reduce the manifestations of dementia, such as agitation and anxiety and we want to see music being utilised throughout care so that people can experience these benefits. One of the ways in which we’re working towards this is by calling for all those providing musical services to visit our website, www.musicfordementia2020.com and upload their information onto our map.”
Pictures by Grant Newton ©Alzheimer’s Support