Music therapy sessions in Brondesbury care home unlock joy within dementia sufferers
PUBLISHED: 10:30 02 October 2019
Musicians brought traditional songs into a Brondesbury Park care home, giving dementia patients a rare chance to connect with the past.
MHA Lawnfield House in Coverdale Road offers music therapy to all its 41 tenants and invited their friends and families to the centre to show its effects a week ago (Thu).
Music therapists Sophie Williams and Timothy Muller took turns on the piano supported by the Cricklewood Choir who had dropped in as part of the session.
Residents at the home joined in with songs including It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner. And a request to sing When The Saints Go Marching In by a usually silent elder saw two 84-year-olds, Georgina James and Harry Edwards, up on their feet and dancing while the others shook tamborines.
After the sing-a-long, Georgina had no recollection it had taken place. "I've lost all hope of knowing anything," she said.
Georgina moved to the care home in November months after a "miracle" rescue at Euston station following her disappearance from her Kensal Green home, as reported in this paper.
Daughter Charlotte Sones discovered Georgina's whereabouts after a school friend she'd not seen in 30 years, who was on a work trip from Wales, messaged to say she had bumped into Gina at the busy station - unaware the chatty grandmother was ill.
Charlotte lost her father to dementia three years ago. She said: "I know a lot of residents here and I looked around and it brought tears to my eyes - they came to life with the music.
"My mum was trained at Bush Davies dance school and loves to dance.
"Dementia is a degenerative disease and without things like this people with dementia turn in on themselves and just go mad.
"This sort of thing is the difference beween quality of life and just an existence."
Michael Doherty, 90, requested When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. "It was very well received," he said. "I love these sessions. When you are incapacitated like I am and you are here, it's a bit dull. They [music sessions] liven things up. I like it here - I don't see how they could make it much better."
He added: "I get a bit offended when someone mentions dementia. I don't feel like I have dementia. I came in here not because of me but because of my wife - I felt she couldn't look after me. In the early days I would fall over and it was difficult to pick me up."
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A former butler, he worked "for all the elite". He added: "Downtown Abbey is my wife's favourite. I saw enough of that in real life."
The sessions were introduced to the MHA group of care homes 11 years ago by chief music therapist Ming Hung Hse.
Music therapy was incorporated into care at Lawnfield House in 2010 and takes place weekly. In addition, there is an in-house chaplain enabling the community to participate in religious music.
Therapists also hold one-on-one sessions. By making music and observing people's verbal, facial, vocal and bodily expressions, the therapists are able to regulate their patients' emotions to alleviate symptoms and identify their possible causes.
This valuable information is then passed on to care home staff.
"We speak to family members and staff and find out everything about them - who they were, who they are, what they did before, how they experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and agitation," said Mr Hung Hse.
"We get that understanding first.
"We then show the staff what they can do and what methods they can use to manage their symptoms, and remind the residents what they can still do."
Ms Williams added a simple tune can act as a trigger for further exploration. "Talking about memories and what engages them, anyone living with dementia can feel very isolated," she said. "Music helps people communicate and express themselves."
Severely agitated people might be started off with nursery rhymes.
Vilawan Hawkes, general manager, said: "Music sessions nurture their mind, body and spirit.
"We work with the community. Care homes need to be part of the community."
MHA has launched an awareness campaign to get people to think about a piece of music or song that gives them joy.
Visit mymomentofjoy.co.uk to take part