In ‘Ghost of a Smile’, Fiona Roberts wrote, “The passage of time wipes clean our path through life, but leaves in its wake a smattering of memories along the route we have passed. They stand out like islands in a clear blue ocean.”
What is Dementia? Dementia is a blanket term describing a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. The changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to progressively affect daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one. Indeed, anything that damages the brain such as an accident or stroke can lead to some degree of dementia.
Music as Therapy for Dementia We all enjoy music. It is a kind of universal language but it has therapeutic value far beyond the mere pleasure of listening to and making melodic sounds. Music is used with older adults to maintain or increase their levels of physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning. It provides sensory and intellectual stimulation that can help maintain a person's quality of life or even improve it.
With dementia sufferers, music seems to form the last bastion of a fading mind. A song can trigger a long lost memory, release blocked emotions, encourage social engagement and just bring a smile or a tear that awakens the soul trapped in a fading mind.
Mindsong One of the organisations that I work with is the charity ‘Mindsong’. We go into care homes and engage the residents in singing sessions that bring a range of benefits and lighten their mood. It’s wonderful to see the reaction of the residents to the sessions. Their feet may tap, their consciousness stirs, they sing along, they smile, they shed the odd tear and we watch some of those islands that Fiona Roberts talks about emerge from below the water line.
Singing for the Brain I work for the Alzheimers Society as a Singing Group Leader for Sing for the Brain sessions in Coleford and Stonehouse. These are social and therapeutic sessions for those with early stage Alzheimers and their carers.