Hazel and Robert

Hazel’s dementia story: “Dementia took away my husband’s ability to speak; Music Makes Us! helped us reconnect”

Hazel’s husband Robert, 92, was diagnosed with vascular dementia with Lewy bodies in December 2018 following a heart attack and a stroke.

The retired engineer was discharged from hospital eight days later but his health continued to decline following more transient ischaemic attacks, known as TIAs or ‘mini strokes’.

Hazel, a former teacher from Northwich, Cheshire, gave up work to care for Robert two and a half years ago after realising he was no longer safe at home on his own.

She said: “He went into hospital still perfectly cognisant and active.

“But when I went in to see him a few days later, the doctor just said ‘he’s got dementia’ and walked off. That was it.

“Eventually, I realised he wasn’t safe at home on his own anymore, so I handed in my notice.

“You think you’re prepared for something like this to happen, but when it actually happens to you, you realise you can never be prepared for someone you love being so different to how they were before.”

Hazel discovered The Brain Charity’s Music Makes Us! programme for people living with dementia in February this year after being recommended it by a support worker.

The workshops – which combine singing with speech and language therapy and dance with physiotherapy and were previously held in care homes – moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hazel said: “Robert absolutely loves all forms of music, so I thought we’d give it a try.

“It was brilliant – we did every session together. It was so enjoyable, but also something beneficial for Robert.

“Even though he can no longer speak, he loves to play along to the songs with shakers and bells and will clap and hum to the tunes, and sway in his chair.”

“Because the same people featured in the videos each week, they became familiar and Robert would wave at them and touch the screen as if he recognised them.

“When you’re caring for a partner with dementia, it means so much to have that connection through music with them and see them smiling and happy.

“Seeing Robert engage with songs we used to dance to together was lovely to see, and gave back a sense of who he was before the dementia.”

Hazel said the best thing about the Music Makes Us! Sing and Music Makes Us! Move sessions was that they were pre-recorded so could be followed at whatever time was most convenient for them, and revisited over and over again.

Hazel and her husband Robert
Hazel enjoyed improved connection with her husband Robert and the social connection with other carers during The Brain Charity’s Music Makes Us! sessions

Sadly, Robert recently had a further stroke and had to be moved into a care home for temporary respite care.

Hazel said for all carers of someone living with dementia, having a social connection with other people in similar situations through the community The Brain Charity creates was a big support.

She added: “I had always planned to look after Robert at home until the end, and sadly that was taken away.

“You put so much into caring that when that person isn’t physically with you, you don’t know what to do with yourself, so having that connection with other people going through the same thing is so important.”

Do you have a loved one who might benefit from The Brain Charity’s Music Makes Us! programme?
Our online programme is open to people from anywhere in the world. Sign up online today.

Categories: COVID-19, Dementia support, Social activities

Published: 12 July 2021

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