An estimated one million people in the UK will be living with dementia by 2025, so ensuring that they can live fulfilled lives is central to our vision and mission. Here, Tracy King, manager at Triangle Home Care Bournemouth (part of Friends of the Elderly’s sister organisation, Triangle Community Services) describes why she has been leading colleagues in supporting some of the older people they work with to participate in ‘Singing for the Brain’ sessions organised locally by Alzheimer’s Society, and the impact this has had.
Ever since Triangle Home Care Service was set up in Bournemouth, I’ve made a lot of links with relevant local organisations, to help increase the choices that we can offer clients in living fulfilled lives.
After I’d made contact with Alzheimer’s Society, they outlined the various activities and sessions that they provide in the Bournemouth, including fortnightly Singing for the Brain sessions, which use singing to bring people together in a friendly and stimulating social environment.
Singing is not only an enjoyable activity, it can also provide a way for people with dementia, along with their carers, to express themselves and socialise with others in a fun and supportive group.
Hidden in the fun are activities developed by Alzheimer’s Society which build on the well-known preserved memory for song and music in the brain. Even when many memories are hard to retrieve, music is especially easy to recall.
So we have been asking older people who use Triangle Home Care Bournemouth’s services and who have been diagnosed with dementia if they would like to go.
I recently took one of the older people we work with, her partner and a young male colleague who was very new to social care. We were all made to feel really welcome at the church hall where the sessions are held, but I could tell that my young colleague was, understandably, a little bit nervous at the prospect of singing with a room full of older people!
But the session started – everyone was singing and our client really enjoyed herself. She was singing away, and by the end of the session I noticed that she was holding my young colleague’s hand. They were both smiling, and he told me later that he felt he’d learned a lot about engaging with people with dementia. He said to me: “The look on her face makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?” It was clearly an important learning moment for him.
I then visited her at home a few days later. She was still saying “I had such a good time”, and she remembered who she had been to the session with, and how she’d held hands with my colleague – it really had made a difference.
I also accompanied her to the next session – I hadn’t seen her for a while but she remembered me, and knew that we were going singing together. This time we went without her partner – it gave him some valuable respite time, but it was also good for her to be doing something independently.
Another Triangle Home Care Bournemouth colleague came with us, to support another older person we work with. Her dementia is advanced, but she really came out of herself at the session. She not only sang but she danced, and we were all laughing – it was all very worthwhile, and both of the clients afterwards said to different home care staff how much they had enjoyed it – and were still saying this a few days later, so it had more than just an immediate effect, and it’s something I want to build up and be able to offer as frequently as possible.
One lady at the session was a carer herself, for her husband who had dementia. She came over to me said it had been really heartwarming and uplifting to see how we were interacting with the older people we were supporting, and she asked for our contact details.
So it’s a win/win situation – the older people we accompany to Singing for the Brain sessions have a good time and their memory is stimulated; it’s a really good learning experience for home care staff, and it’s also a very positive way to showcase what we do at Triangle, together with our approach to working with and caring for our clients.
We aim to get our home care clients out as much as possible – if someone wants to do something, or go somewhere, we will do all that we can to help make that happen, because we know that being out and about and a part of their local community makes a massive difference to them.