Singing helps those living with dementia

It is said that singing and laughter is the best medicine and that is certainly true at the Madeira Day Centre where visitors and residents come together to help sing away their blues as the Belmont Healthcare Group embrace the idea of a dementia singing group.

Debbie Roy, Community Psychiatric Nurse, within KMPT’s Older People Care Group or “the singing nurse”, as she is fondly referred to, spent a number of years singing her heart out at a local choir group. She also knows the effects of dementia only too well after some of her close family were diagnosed. Debbie knows the benefits of singing and when she had the idea of setting up a singing group, she rallied the help of colleague Lisa Doherty before reaching out to local care homes and Madeira Lodge care home where the signing group born. 

Two of the group’s members are 82 year-old Eddie and his loving wife Annis. Eddie is a resident at the care home following his dementia diagnosis in 2014. As Annis walks up to the entrance of the home for her regular visit, Eddie is visibly thrilled to see his wife of 60 years. They sit together hand in hand, still as devoted to each other as always. The singing group adds just an extra sparkle to Annis’ visits.

Founding member Debbie Roy says: “The group wouldn’t be able to continue without the support of every person who attends, whether they are staff, volunteers, visitors or residents. They all make the session enjoyable and help each other to join in and become a real part of the activity.

“While some of the residents experience memory loss and cannot always remember the words, they are still able to get involved by clapping their hands, playing musical instruments, tapping their feet to the music and even some dancing.”

Each week Annis looks forward to spending precious time with Eddie and enjoys nothing more than singing along to songs from their younger days when they first got married. Annis has also made very good friends with some of the carers who also share similar experiences of caring for a loved one with dementia. It’s a chance for them to meet over a cup of tea and talk about how they are feeling and share advice with each other. 

Annis said: “The group is a godsend. It doesn’t matter how you feel, you always come away happy and smiling. It would be a big disappointment if it wasn’t available.”

The singing group has certainly helped Eddie with his dementia. You can see the smile on his face and how much he enjoys singing and spending time with his wife. The group has boosted his confidence immensely. He initiates conversations with other members of the group which has helped him to build relationships and his laughter is infectious.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in Norwich say that singing is good for your mental health, but there is a catch — you have to sing with other people. Singing is beneficial and often mental health professionals recommend music therapy, something that’s been shown to relieve stress and help treat anxiety and depression.