Living with Dementia - helped by music

Living with dementia can be a heartbreaking experience for both an individual themselves and their family and friends.

There is medication available to slowdown the onset of symptoms for people living with dementia, but there is no cure. Symptoms can range from memory loss and confusion, to loss of inhibitions, behavioural and highly emotive moments. Often family and friends of those living with dementia will describe how they have already lost the person there was.

It is terribly sad, there’s no getting away from it. But there are also those joyful moments. When someone living with dementia recounts a story from forty years ago, as if it was yesterday. Word perfect. When you all have a giggle about something silly they’ve just said or done, which can often be inappropriate. It’s so important to find a reason to laugh and smile.

Sometimes a photograph, a familiar voice, a TV programme or a recounted memory, can bring a flicker of that person back. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, anyone who knows and loves someone living with dementia will tell you, those seconds are to be cherished.

One of the greatest, tried, tested and researched methods of treatment for dementia, does not come in the form of tablets, medical procedures or intervention. It comes in the form of music therapy.

One of the best examples of this came from our home city of Nottingham in April 2019, when local girl and award winning actress, Vicky McClure, led a documentary on BBC One called Our Dementia Choir.

The Line of Duty star worked alongside a fantastic group of professional singers and musicians to build a choir, every member of which is living with dementia. There are a number of different types of dementia, from Alzheimers and vascular dementia to frontotemporal dementia. All members of the choir had varying types and stages of dementia, but one thing they shared was a passion for music.

The documentary showed a man as young as 32 living with dementia, joining hands with people over double his age, to create music they loved, find rhythm, sound and soul in the songs they were singing.

A fascinating programme, with may highs and lows. But one thing was for certain; the music did have a tangible impact on those living with dementia. Some family members even reported better behaviour, moods being lifted and day-to-day life being improved for days, sometimes weeks afterwards.

When people talk about the ‘power of music’, they are often talking flippantly about a song that once made them cry, or a tune that never fails to get them up dancing. But never has this phrase been more poignant, than in the smiles, body language, eyes and reactions of the Dementia Choir, as they belted out their version of Ben E King’s Stand By Me and The Beatles’ In My Life, chosen by Vicky McClure herself for its resonance. Watch it and see for yourself.

If someone you know is living with dementia, and you worry about them still living alone, why not talk to a member of our team about the Nottingham On Call personal care alarm and monitoring service. We may be able to help give you peace of mind, while helping to maintain your loved one’s independence for as long as possible. Visit the Contact Us page for more information.