Much of what we see and hear about dementia care is negative and can seem depressing. Particularly when it comes to communicating with an elderly parent or friend who is not able to chat as you once can be frustrating. A bit of research revealed that there to be ways for people connect with each other especially through music.
Connection, even if only for an hour a week, can make all the difference in any relationships. Researchers at Stirling University have discovered singing and music, in general, can unlock parts of the brain and get the old grey matter moving. Professor Paul Robertson – a concert violinist and academic – has made a study of music in dementia care. He has concluded that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function – at 16 weeks – which means that you are receptive to music long before anything else. And it appears that it’s a case of first in-last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.
There is a programme called Singing for the Brain which is run by Alzheimer’s UK which uses music as its stimuli. Singing for the Brain was started by Chreanne Montgomery-Smith when she was working in a care home with a music quiz. Gradually as the weeks went by she found more and more residents joining in the songs. One older lady who couldn’t even remember her name – knew all the words to songs from her younger years. The interaction creates a positive time for the family and friends for an hour or so a week and when they can reconnect with each other.
Norman McNamara – founder of the Global Purple Angel Dementia Awareness was determined to find ways of allowing people to remain living independently for as long as possible. His latest idea is Purple Angel Music – a simple concept to use music to remind dementia patients to do important tasks each day to keep them safe. He worked with a musician Michael Campari to re-write songs – like Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” – to include new messages, such as “It’s time to make a cup of tea”. The songs are recorded on an MP3 player which plays 24 hours a day. The daytime track has seven numbers from a selected genre – swing, country, show tunes, rock and roll and a song plays automatically every two hours, each carrying an appropriate and timely reminder of an essential task. During the night, there is a silent track for 12 hours.
Both these examples of dementia care make us realise that relationships can continue even when there is an inability to communicate as we have in the past, we just need to enjoy the connections we can make.
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