Singing for memories

Belinda Townsend and residents at Foxby Hill Care Home in Gainbsorough taking part in a music and song session G120513-1b
Belinda Townsend and residents at Foxby Hill Care Home in Gainbsorough taking part in a music and song session G120513-1b

Simple songs with actions are helping people suffering with dementia to recapture memories.

Singing for the Brain is an initiative of the Alzheimer’s Society and is being used regularly at Foxby Hill Care Centre in Gainsborough.

The weekly singing sessions are not just for people living at the centre though, as quality care manager Belinda Townsend explained.

“We have been getting some great results from the people we care for here, who are often in the advanced stages of dementia.”

“So we feel that those people who are still able to live at home with carers would benefit enormously from it too.”

“We have been advertising the sessions but so far with not much success. But if they came along and saw what we are achieving I’m sure they would want to join in.”

“We offer free transport as well within the local area and it gives carers a chance to talk to other carers and perhaps help each other.”

Singing for the Brain is held on Wednesday afternoons for a couple of hours from 2.30pm.

The singing is led by volunteers Pat Barnett and Nina Riddlesden and begins with a warm-up, encouraging group members to shake their hands and make sounds to warm-up their vocal chords.

“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes is very popular because they like the actions,” said Belinda, who always takes part in the singing as well.

“If something’s not working so well then I will suggest trying something different, it’s very flexible.”

“Sometimes a song will bring back memories for someone and they will start sharing a memory so we stop and allow them to talk.”

“One man hadn’t said his wife’s name for over two years but he sang me a Gilbert and Sullivan song he liked and said his wife’s name, it was very emotional for her.”

Belinda said another resident, who finds it difficult to communicate, started singing a song in her own words and they could tell by her facial expressions that it had unlocked something in her brain.

Belinda described dementia as doors closing in the brain which will never open again because it is a terminal illness.

But she said the singing and music provided snapshots of lucidity.

“We have to make the most of those moments and make them count because that’s when you see the real person.”

She said one man who at first refused to even go into the room where the singing takes place, was now joining in.

Alzheimer’s Society east region operations director Kate Moore said: “Singing for the Brain groups provide an opportunity to build friendships, gain support and share experiences with people who understand the issues surrounding living with memory problems and dementia.”

“I’ve seen people who are barely able to speak, be transformed by the music, singing along to tunes from their past as if their old memories are suddenly unlocked. It’s also great fun and uplifting for everyone who takes part.”

*For more information and to book a place at Singing for the Brain at Foxby Hill Care Centre call Belinda on 01427 611231.