Music for Life

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Music for Life is a project pioneering and developing interactive music workshops for people living with dementia.

Work takes place in residential homes and special day care centres. The project aims to enhance the quality of life of its participants and demonstrate to carers the emotional, social and physical potential of people in their care. It focuses on people who can be isolated and disempowered as a result of the advanced stage of their dementia, and provides valuable staff development opportunities through experiential learning.

‘It’s lovely to listen, I can’t help but listen’ Participant

During projects, specially trained musicians work alongside small groups of people with dementia and their carers; drawing out individuals and enhancing communication. These musical and personal interactions identify and build upon areas still intact within a person suffering the losses associated with the later stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, including memory, physical capacities, personality changes and accompanying loss of identity.

Through this unique approach, care staff are left inspired about their caring role, more knowledgeable about the people they care for and more aware of best-practice in person-centred approaches to caring.

‘I enjoyed seeing residents really involved in the sessions, seeing changes in them
as the project progressed, and recognising their strengths’
Care staff member

Music for Life offers three interlinked strands of work:

  • Music improvisation workshops for people living with dementia
  • Working with staff to enhance their understanding of the emotional needs of people with dementia as part of a person-centred approach to dementia care
  • Training and developing professional musicians to work in this field

Music for Life was founded by Linda Rose in 1993 and developed together with Jewish Care, Dementia UK, and an expanding team of musicians. Music for Life is now managed by Wigmore Hall. Our Lead Care and Development Partner is Jewish Care, and we also work in collaboration with Westminster Adult Services, and Dementia Pathfinders.

A Short Case Study:

Emma* was very depressed at the beginning of the project. She would spend days on end in her room, staying in her nightclothes all day and preferring not to join other residents in her unit for meals. As the project progressed, however, she began to engage more with the music. Arriving early, she was seen in animated conversation with the musicians. Gradually she took a more active role in playing instruments and showed recognition and pleasure when the musicians played a piece for her. Flashes of her old, fun-loving nature came out.

The staff saw lots of changes in Emma after the project. She no longer stayed in her room in her nightclothes, but was happy to come into the lounge of the unit and join in with singing and dancing. She was much more sociable and was willing to accept help with personal care from staff when they went to get her up in the mornings. She is now showing far fewer signs of being depressed and staff are delighted to see her smiling.

*name has been changed

Further information

For further information, please see the recent annual report.

Contact

If you would like to find out about getting involved with Music for Life, please contact the Project Manager, Kate Whitaker, on 020 7258 8240 or email the Learning Department.

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