Why it’s worth striking the right note for people with dementiaRuth Mabhiza
Pat Kirwan on the rewards of playing music for those with the condition, and Prof Martin Green anVeronica Franklin Gould on accessing creative activities
The biggest reward is to see the gradual awakening of someone who at first seems to be asleep,’ writes Pat Kirwan. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer
It’s sad that Susan Tomes’ offer of playing for patients with dementia ground to a halt through red tape (Letters, 12 January). I can relate a very different experience.
I play in an ensemble of 11 (mature) amateur musicians, some of whom only picked up their first instrument at retirement. As a student exercise to try playing in front of an audience, we first offered our services to a local care home and we have never looked back. We play a mixture of American old-time music, with a clientele of care homes, Alzheimer’s support centres and the local hospital. There has never been a question of any form of vetting, even though we are sometimes left to entertain the residents without staff.
Quite apart from the pleasure that we get simply from playing music together, the biggest reward is to see the gradual awakening of someone who at first seems to be asleep, from a twitching finger to hitting a tambourine with a smile on their face. The sight of a room full of people with dementia and volunteers doing the conga to our Christmas carol set was unforgettable.
I would strongly encourage anyone who can offer music to do so; it is rewarding for everyone.
• The links between music and dementia are proven and it is worth persevering. Care Home Open Day on 28 June is the perfect opportunity to bring arts, music and creativity into the lives of residents, relatives, staff and helpers.
Care homes are hubs of the community, and if people are put off volunteering we need to question how fit for purpose the regulations are. They should be there to serve residents rather than provide bureaucratic obstacles to life.
Prof Martin Green
Chief executive, Care England
•Your article on music for dementia (Making music isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity, 9 January) and letters (12 January) raise the question of finding musical opportunities for people affected by dementia and their families. The Arts 4 Dementia website lists music and dance events around the UK, accessible by social prescribers. Steve Phaure (Letters, 12 January) calls for volunteers at GP surgeries to connect people with music and other activities. To support social prescribing, Arts 4 Dementia is planning to coordinate a volunteer befriender network, ArtsPAL, to accompany individuals to prescribed exhibitions, performances and the free midweek music offered by many churches.
Veronica Franklin Gould
Arts 4 Dementia
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Why it’s worth striking the right note for people with dementia