Music for Life brings together professional musicians, care staff and people living with dementia through interactive music sessions.
It’s lovely to listen, I can’t help but listenParticipant
Music for Life aims to enhance the quality of life of its participants and to demonstrate to carers the emotional, social and physical potential of people in their care.
Projects take place in residential homes and special day care centres, and focus on people who can be isolated and disempowered as a result of the advanced stage of their dementia.
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 in a person suffering the losses associated with the later stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – memory, physical capacities, personality changes and accompanying loss of identity.
Music for Life works with care staff to enhance their understanding of the emotional needs of people with dementia in the context of a person-centred approach to dementia care. Participants' personalities emerge more strongly through the work, and carers, who are also part of the team, can then re-evaluate their care of individuals in the light of their experience during the project.
A trained dementia facilitator works as part of the team on every project. They help to deliver planning and debrief sessions, along with follow-up training. This can be designed by the dementia facilitator in collaboration with care staff, meeting their training needs or following up on themes identified during the project. The follow-up training can also tie in with the staff development aims of the specific care setting.
I enjoyed seeing residents really involved in the sessions, seeing changes in them as the project progressed,Care staff member
and recognising their strengths
Music for Life has a firm commitment to the development of musicians working in this field.
The Music for Life team comprises a group of around 20 professional musicians who receive regular training and development days focusing on the musical, social, pastoral and dementia-specific aspects of the work; there is also practice sharing and peer mentoring. In addition, the team undertakes regular observations of other projects and takes part in reflective feedback sessions to maintain Music for Life’s high standards and to encourage continued development of practice.
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.
*names have been changed
Information for Commissioners
Music for Life promotes and helps to develop staff attitudes to person-centred care, interaction, creativity and quality of life, and supports a number of current policies and initiatives, including:
It is also supported by findings from research commissioned by Skills for Care (2012) about the important role played by the arts in delivery of social care and links with the core values of Dementia Friendly Communities and the Prime Minister's 'Dementia Challenge'
Download the latest Music for Life report
Music for Life was founded by Linda Rose in 1993. It is now a Wigmore Hall Learning Project with Lead Care and Development Partner Jewish Care.
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Please support the work of Music for Life to ensure that we can continue to reach people living with dementia and their carers. Donations of any size make such a valuable difference. Whatever you feel able to give is enormously appreciated.