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Another piece of music to help keep memories alive

Blog post 8 May 2017

Maybe it’s because I’m generally in need of a lift after the weekend, or perhaps our media guy’s timing is just perfect for Mondays, but on the heels of my last blog about the Lost Chord Lottery windfall he’s pointed me to another piece of news that’s music to my ears.

Dementia is an issue that’s close to my heart, having seen first hand how it can impact lives and families. Engaging those who are diagnosed with this memory-loss condition is sometimes not easy, but music is a fabulous way to do it.

Making a few headlines recently – and doubles some melody too – is the Rossendale Memory Choir for those living with dementia, their carers and families.

Online magazine Care Industry News turned the spotlight on the project and its connection with the local community in Lancashire after an activity coordinator at Haslingden Hall & Lodge took a number of residents to the choir’s weekly meeting.

The “ trial “ proved a huge success, with high engagement from both the dementia and residential members of the home.

Now it appears the new Haslingden Memory Choir will meet on the first Monday of each month, inviting friends and relatives into the home for an afternoon of song.  Great!

Activity coordinator Tracey Booth said: “Our new choir will bring everyone together to sing a variety of new and classic songs, which will be particularly beneficial to our residents with dementia. We have some fantastic voices in the home and now we have our own choir, everyone can get involved.”

We can all forget things. We’re human. It happens. But with dementia, it can be constant. Memories from long ago are vivid, but today is a blur, a battle to cope.

Singing has many benefits – social, psychological, and medical. For example it is good for the lungs (and therefore increases oxygen levels in the blood), it reduces blood pressure and boosts the production of endorphins (happy hormones) and has been found to be one of the most enduring functions that a person living with dementia will be able to use.

The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kickstart the old grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.

In a study of music and dementia, Professor Paul Robertson, a concert violinist and academic, said: “We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.”

Of course there are a number of oranisations that focus on music for dementia; Singing for the Brain, Music for Life, Golden Oldies and Live Music Now all add to the growing chorus of melody that’s ‘out there’.

To know that the initiative is growing may even get me singing (but only in the shower).