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The Power of Music - supporting people living with dementia

A young female musician wearing a yellow jumper plays acoustic guitar and smiles.

This week, 16 – 22 May 2022, we’re putting the spotlight on Dementia Action Week; an awareness campaign led by Alzheimer’s Society encouraging people to ‘act on dementia’.

Music is a positive way to support people with dementia. We work closely with communities in South Bristol to provide Our Music Club – weekly music sessions to bring creative activity and live music to people living with dementia, along with their carers and families and supporters.

 

Music to improve our health

We were pleased to see the connection between music and positive mental health reflected in the recently published ‘Power of Music’ report from Music for Dementia and UK Music. It sets out a plan for harnessing music to improve our health, wellbeing and communities.

Research in the report suggests that “music interventions were linked to meaningful improvements in wellbeing and the effects seen were similar whether participants sang, played or listened to music.”

 

People who engage with the arts are more likely to lead healthier lives

Power of Music Report 2022

By offering our weekly music sessions, providing staff care and transport through Our Music Club, we aim to make ‘meaningful’ action on dementia while providing a sense of community.

 

How we’re using music to enhance quality of life in South Bristol

We are working alongside the Dementia Wellbeing Service to support for people living with dementia, along with their carers and families.

The weekly music-making group, Our Music Club, utilises music to enhance the quality of life of South Bristol residents by experiencing and making music together. Supported by three professional musicians, sessions provide joyful and connective times for people to be together in the present.

Since September the group have learnt and written songs that Bristol Beacon music practitioners bring or songs that participants suggest, created soundscapes, danced, conducted, played games and even played alongside a member of the royal family!

 

Our Music Club sessions are supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Grateful Society, the Anchor Society and St. Monica’s Trust.

Our Music Club Timeline

 

  • August 2021: Free MP3 players sent to group members’ homes with tailored playlists
  • September 2021: Music sessions established for people living with dementia
  • December 2021: Named ‘Our Music Club’ by group members.
  • March 2022: HRH Duke of Kent visits Bristol Beacon and joins in with an Our Music Club session
  • May 2022: Sessions double in size since January 2022, reaching 10 households with a total of 23 participants: 10 living with dementia and 13 friends or family members.

Case Study: Improving confidence of ‘T’

To protect the identity of the participant in this case study we refer to them as ‘T’.

T is 59 years old, is living with dementia and is around 15 years younger than other music club participants. T was diagnosed when they were 56, just before the pandemic.

After diagnosis, T shut down, cut out most of their socialising because they were ashamed of their diagnosis, and stopped hobbies that made them happy, including playing the guitar. After three weeks of coming to Our Music Club, T came home and picked up the guitar for the first time in 3 years. The next week, they bought their guitar in for our guitarists in the group to have a look at.

We have noticed changes in T’s confidence, willingness to hold conversation, take risks and participate. T has not played in the club yet but we hope they will soon.

Impacts we’ve seen in Our Music Club members

Short term:

  • Positive mood changes after each session

Medium term:

  • Word use has increased
  • Interactions more joyful, easeful and relaxed.

Long term:

  • Activity – participants joining more clubs or picking up forgotten hobbies.
  • Independence – participants travelling by taxi unaccompanied

 

My confidence has definitely got a lot better since I’ve started coming…

The main thing is the friends that I’ve made through music, which is such an easy way to get to know people.

Our Music Club participant

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