Huge steps have been taken music-based therapy for people with dementia in recent years. You may have seen programs like ‘Our Dementia Choir’ with Vicky McClure or the Alzheimer’s documentary ‘Alive Inside - a story of Music and Memory’ - which show the amazing effects that music can have on people living with dementia.
Why does music help? Findings show that musical memory regions in the brain seem to be preserved, even as dementia progresses, and that music activates the brain across different pathways from those of speech. So we have seen that people can recall lyrics to songs even when they have lost the capacity to speak in full sentences, or that people with no verbal communication at all start to engage in these therapy sessions, responding to the music by nodding along and tapping their feet.
It’s not unfair to say that living with dementia can be frightening, isolating and often bewildering. Being in a group of people - for anyone - can sometimes be an anxiety provoking experience. But through the workshops, we see that joining in with the music – with the beat or the lyrics – is infectious, and once participants have joined a session, even the shyest want to return! We have a wonderful team of singers, dancers, professional speech & language therapists and physiotherapists who welcome participants and make sure that they have a safe and enjoyable experience.
In the workshops, we sing and move to fun, up-tempo pop songs and slower melodic tunes. We are happy to take musical suggestions, and our team of session leaders make sure that every taste can be accounted for!
The Brain Charity runs two workshops specifically for people with dementia:
And we are starting to see first-hand the incredibly beneficial effects. Not only does music have the possibility of triggering memory and transporting people to particular moments in their pasts, it evokes emotion – raising heartbeat and stimulating endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the body.
According to a 2018 commission on Dementia and Music, there is now “…emerging evidence to suggest that music may help to delay the onset of dementia and improve brain function and information recall”. At The Brain Charity, we look at the positive effects of music on communication and mobility. We are constantly working with our service users, occupational therapists and other experts to find the best exercises - not only to aid people in their dementia journey, but to make the journey as joyful as it can be.
Thank you to Quilter Cheviot Investment Management for making these workshops possible.