Thank you for the music! The beat goes on for Manchester dementia sufferers

After being restricted to holding classes online, Alzheimer’s UK is excited to welcome dementia sufferers and their carers back to sing together in person throughout Manchester.

By uniting people affected by dementia through song, Singing for the Brain helps to reduce social isolation, improve quality of life, wellbeing and mood, which has never been needed more, as many people have significantly deteriorated from the knock-on effects of lockdown.

Rebecca Trower, dementia support worker and Singing for the Brain facilitator is looking forward to holding classes in person again from September 24, after a difficult 18 months.

She said: “For a lot of the people I support, the first six months were a nightmare.

“Having stability and a routine of things to do every week is so important to people with dementia, and for their carers too, who have the opportunity for a chat and a bit of respite.

“They can see the person they love happy and enjoying themselves, and it’s a chance to build memories that aren’t related to their dementia and care duties.”

Alzheimer’s Society Research Manager, Hannah Churchill, said: “Music memory is often retained when other memories are lost. Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain can help people, even in advanced stages of dementia, to tap into long-term memories linked to music and song – for some, this can mean they can communicate through singing when no longer able to do so through speech.

Rebecca explained that opportunities for communication and positive social interaction can be limited for people with dementia, and that diagnosis can knock confidence, and cause even the most outgoing to withdraw into themselves.

She said that many who once had a busy social life can find themselves isolated as friends and family struggle to deal with their behaviour changes, and for many of the service users and their carers the class is the highlight of the week.

The groups sing anything from Doris Day to ABBA, Earth Wind and Fire and even the YMCA, and Rebecca has seen first-hand how music can evoke memories and emotion, uplift, calm or comfort.

She said: “Often people come in quite a low mood, or maybe a bit angry, but by the end you can see that they’re much more cheerful.

“Carers have said that the better mood isn’t just during the class, but can carry on into the evening, that’s just what we want to hear.”

Though every effort has been taken to ensure classes are Covid-safe, many attendees are particularly vulnerable and still feel unsafe going outside, so Alzheimer’s UK will also continue to run a Greater Manchester virtual class.

“The online group actually worked brilliantly for some people,” she said.

“For a carer to get somebody ready and bring them out to a class, it’s quite a lot, so if they’ve got the technology and they can do it online it’s a much easier task.”

There are more than 28,000 people living with dementia in Greater Manchester, and Alzheimer’s UK wants more people to benefit from its classes.

Bespoke training is now available to care providers, organisations or individuals across the UK to run their own group and become a Singing for the Brain delivery partner.

To join a group or find out about starting your own: Alzheimer’s UK Singing for the Brain

Video credit: Alzheimer’s UK, picture by Tatiana Zanon on Unsplash

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