Music Continuing to Make a Difference
Short-term memory loss and increasing difficulty with problem-solving are common in the later stages of dementia. People with dementia frequently struggle to remember dates, numbers and even words, but one thing that stays with them is music. Many people who are unable to tell you what year it is can sing all the words of a song that they knew when they were younger. This is why music is such a valuable resource in private care homes for people with dementia, helping to bring interest, happiness and memories to the clients.
Not Simply Vera Lynn
Although Second World War singers such as Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and the Andrews Sisters have been popular music choices in residential care homes for years, many residents in these homes were born in the 1940s and have memories of music from the 1950s right through to current artists.
They will appreciate hearing songs from their teenage years such as Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly, Wake Up Little Susie by the Everly Brothers or Don’t Be Cruel by Elvis at least as much as Vera Lynn’s wartime songs. The pop groups of the sixties, from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Tremeloes and Gerry and the Pacemakers, are popular choices in private care homes today and can spark memories of earlier times, friends, family and life in general.
Music from the past can evoke connections with the emotions an individual was feeling at the time, so songs that were hits when a client’s children were born or another memorable event occurred in their life often mean a great deal. Whether it is by Bing Crosby or Boy George, a song can help a person with dementia to recall happier times and talk about their life experience.
The online music streaming service Spotify is now being used in some private care homes to change the daily lives of their residents. Because there are more than 30 million songs available on the service, an infinite number of different playlists can be created, and there is no need to rely on a limited collection of CDs for musical entertainment.
Playlists can be created to enhance a particular activity – for exercise sessions or to help residents to relax and enjoy a calming ambience. Reminiscence activities can really come to life with the addition of appropriate music to set the mood, and dance music can transport residents back to their youth.
Not all care home residents want only music from the past: current and recent hits are also often popular with people who have enjoyed listening to music throughout their lives. Many interesting topics of conversation have been introduced by the varied music now available and, of course, residents can request their own favourite music or songs.
Joining in with music helps people feel positive and valued, whether it is singing along or playing an instrument. Remembering and performing music is a talent that many people retain long after many other cognitive skills have been lost, so enabling them to access familiar tunes can enhance their well-being and make a real difference to their quality of life.