Therapeutic Singing

 

The following questions and information are from and interview with Heather Edwards for Carers’ Corner. Click the links below to jump to a question.

Questions

1. Why is singing so good for you?
2. What’s the difference between therapeutic singing and a sing-song, and why does it help people with dementia?
3. Do you have to be able to sing??!
4. So what happens at the sessions?
5. What sort of stuff do you sing?”
6. Where do the groups happen and who runs them?
7. How can I find out details?
8. Can I just go along?
9. Is there any charge?
10. What’s this about a CD?

Information on Music and Dementia

Music and Dementia


1. Why is singing so good for you?

It’s fun but also a great workout for your lungs and your circulation. It releases feel-good hormones that lift your mood and it’s a fantastic way of socialising.

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2. What’s the difference between therapeutic singing and a sing-song, and why does it help people with dementia?

I always think of a singsong as something you can do with half your brain – just going along with the flow – whereas here we try to use the singing to tease the brain into action, either perhaps by trying to do a song really well, or by playing around with it, so that we really have to think what we’re doing!

The groups are also something that people living with dementia and their carers can enjoy together and have a bit of fun and relaxation.

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3. Do you have to be able to sing??!

Absolutely not – anyone can join in, whatever noise they make!

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4. So what happens at the sessions?

We usually start off with a cup of tea and a natter – chance for carers to have a break and catch up with friends. Then we do some warm-ups – just like any other choir – breathing, tongue-twisters, perhaps a bit of gentle movement, and then we get going with the singing

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5. What sort of stuff do you sing?

A bit of everything – standards, songs from the shows, folksongs, music hall, spirituals – but also a few rounds and tricks which play around with well-known songs but make the brain work a bit harder!

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6. Where do the groups happen and who runs them?

Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, BUPA and Pabulum all have groups in Norwich, and there are two more in Wymondham and Dereham.

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7. How can I find out details?

The best way is via the www.comesinging.org.uk website, which has a Groups page with a calendar tab.

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8. Can I just go along?

No, you need to contact the organiser first by ringing the appropriate number on the website.

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9. Is there any charge?

Not generally, although the Alzheimer’s Society has just introduced a charge of £2 per head.

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10. What’s this about a CD?

Two of the groups, from Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, put together a CD with the help of a wonderful recordist, John Kramarchuk. It’s really great – very joyful and full of fun – and you can get it in return for a suggested donation of £5 (to be shared by the two charities).

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Music and Dementia

On the most basic level, short-term memory uses different parts of the brain in healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s. In the brains of those with Alzheimer’s, these parts are the same as those involved in processing emotions which may be why music and singing, with their strong emotional content, have such power to enhance memory.

Research shows that musical memory survives relatively well in dementia.

Rhythm acts as a kind of sensory timer, helping along the brain mechanisms that control timing, coordination and muscle function and simply making things flow more easily.

It attracts our attention and helps us keep focus.

Just as in our early years, rhythm helps learning and memory and enables us to break up information such as times tables and phone numbers into bite-size, memorable chunks. Rhythm and rhythmic music can aid recall and physical movement in people with dementia.

Combining these two elements, music learned earlier in life can bring access to memories and the language to talk about them, and in a small way help people with dementia to function better in general.

Therapeutic singing groups – see www.comesinging.org.uk for details.

Click here to see Alzheimer’s Society group singing live on BBC Look East.

NB these involve no cost to the singers and are run by various charities and health providers with the support of trained volunteers.

Singing is always good and the health benefits for everyone are a given: breathing, heart, release of mood-enhancing hormones, etc, but therapeutic singing groups go much further than nostalgic sing-a-longs in that they includes activities to work specifically on:

• Breaking up the repetitive loops of thought (perseveration) which dementia can bring,
• Gently easing physical movement, particularly using both sides of the body,
• restoring confidence by musical work on recalling and rebuilding half-forgotten memories,
• Encouraging alertness and interaction with activities which may seem like fun but nevertheless never condescend or patronise.

Heather Edwards: h.j.edwards@uea.ac.uk 01603 452404

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Carers Corner on Future Radio broadcast 27th October 2011 – Presented by Heather Edwards

 Posted by at 7:36 pm