A resident musician for each care home

 

 

I believe music is our birthright and that it belongs to everyone, young or old. rich or poor, healthy or frail. My life’s purpose is to share my love of music, my experience and my skill in any way I can to bring joy, reassurance, comfort and inspiration and to bring people together.

I have a dream that care homes have regular access to music making as a way of life. I have been giving concerts to those living with a dementia in homes for nearly 20 years all over the UK and have seen time and again how music is able to reach those for whom words have become confusing and inaccessible. Music not only brings joy but reaches the person inside and can stimulate the mind to enable other cognitive functions to flash into being: those who haven’t spoken for months, or even years after participating in a music session will engage, smile, and start to speak, or may begin walking again.

 

My experience working in a care home as a care assistant during the pandemic has given me a valuable perspective on the inner-workings of a care home, the cogs of the machine. I realised after seeing how lonely residents are, alone in their rooms for hours on end, that I could do something to enhance their quality of life by bringing music into the home. I suggested becoming the home’s ‘resident musician’ and, knowing about the daily routines and schedules, I am able to fit my music sessions with everyone and make sure that no-one is left out. I do an interactive group session for those in the lounge (socially distanced) lead from the piano, and encourage singing of familiar songs including carols, hymns, pop songs, songs from the shows, children’s songs, war songs and pub songs. Then I visit individuals in their rooms for a chat to hold a hand and sit in companionship, or share a song or two if it feels right and they are open to it. 

 

Music alleviates anxiety, depression and aggression and enhances quality of life. It provides care staff with an opportunity to have fun with their residents and provide valuable information about their lives. Music becomes a crucial tool in communicating helpfully with them.

Music in a care home for those living with a dementia is not just yet another bolt-on activity, but a resource with great transformative power. 

 

I am proud to be the first resident musician at my care home and am excited that they are a trailblazer. It is truly a bold, innovative step and sets a model which I hope others will follow. I want to see a resident musician in every care-home and make music a way of life, as crucial to their well-being as food and drink and personal care.

 

 

In 2018 a report from the Commission on Dementia and Music brought together a comprehensive body of research of both clinical and anecdotal  evidence from leaders in the field. It said 

 

“Music therapy is one of just two forms of [non-pharmocological] intervention for which there is convincing evidence in reducing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.”

 

Oliver Sacks the great neuroscientist said:

 

“Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialised in daily life; we switch on a radio, switch it off, hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it. But to those who are lost in dementia, the situation is different. Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and can have the power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.”

(Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain)

“Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialised in daily life; we switch on a radio, switch it off, hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it. But to those who are lost in dementia, the situation is different. Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and can have the power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.”

(Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia)

“Music therapy is one of just two forms of [non-pharmocological] intervention for which there is convincing evidence in reducing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.”

(2018 report from the Commission on Dementia and Music)

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