Mears Care in Devon is trialling a method of using music to aid people with dementia remember simple tasks.

Mears has worked very closely with the Purple Angel charity to promote dementia awareness, which included sessions in Torquay to understand what it’s like being “inside the mind of dementia”.

According to Purple Angel, “Dementia is like Christmas tree lights, one by one they go out until the very last one, the part of the brain that reminds you to breathe goes out, and then you die. Sometimes during this process the person living with dementia may forget to eat, drink, lock the door – however, they retain their ability to remember music.”

How it works

Popular songs and show tunes are incorporated with subtle helpful messages reminding them to eat, drink, take a shower etc., which is then played on an MP3 player.

The music player is mounted on a docking station which plays two 12 hour tracks on a 24 hour loop.

On the first track, a song comes on every two hours–every single song on this track has a subtle message like ‘have you had a shower or have you had something to eat.”

The second track is a 12 hour silent track –so that it doesn’t disturb service users when they are asleep, and this gets repeated on a day and night cycle.

Results from the current trial

Pauline

Service user Pauline Kilsby was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago and is bed-bound. She used to work in the local hospital and now is looked after by her husband, Mick, and her family, along with Mears care workers.

Pauline’s family have reported that with the music trial, Pauline is communicating more. She is eating and drinking a little better, and is even beginning to eat again her favourite meal before her illness – corn beef stew.

Pauline and her care worker sing along with the music, and her family have said that the music has become an ice breaker for new care staff not familiar with Pauline’s routine, giving confidence to both parties.

Marian

Marian suffered a head injury which affects her memory and she is often low. She is able to communicate but cannot do much for herself.

Family members including Marian’s partner say that the music has helped – she is brighter and sings along. She likes listening and singing to Johnny Matthias – there is a twinkle in her eye and a big smile on her face when the music is on. Her care staff feel that it is great comfort when nobody is around, as she lives on her own.

Jean

Service user Jean has Alzheimer’s but her son, Nigel, says that when the music is on his mother is more talkative and smiling, and seems to be sleeping better. Nigel says they both enjoy the music and the service has been good for both him and his mother.