It’s not a bad day at work when you spend a large part of it listening to your favourite song tracks. But that’s just how Balhousie Care Group employees spent a day recently when they learned the benefits of music to people living with dementia.
Sixteen care home staff from across the award-winning group gathered in Balhousie Monkbarns in Arbroath – one of Balhousie Care’s 25 homes across Scotland – to receive their latest training in the popular Playlist for Life, a programme launched by broadcaster Sally Magnusson for use in care homes, hospitals and the community.
Sally founded Playlist for Life after seeing the positive effect music had for her mother, who was living with dementia. For Yvonne Manson, Balhousie Care Group’s dementia consultant, the effects of music on people living with dementia are “powerful”.
Yvonne, current RCNi Leadership Award Winner and a UK leader in dementia in care homes, said:
“I have seen several people with dementia with word finding and communication difficulties singing full songs, much to the shock of those around them. I have also seen people with dementia who are restless and walk sometimes at a great pace, getting comfort from the songs and sitting down to listen to them or slowing their pace as they walk.
She added: “Family members have reported that their wedding song came on and the person with dementia reached out for their hand. There are too many examples to list but safe to say the effect of music on these residents is powerful, just as it is on all of us.”
At Balhousie, Playlist for Life and personalised music are used in lounge areas and played individually to residents, using iPods and mp3 players. The playlists are created with the help of residents, family members, friends and staff and the programme is put in place by ‘dementia ambassadors’ – dedicated staff members who are trained to make sure Balhousie Care’s dementia strategies are delivered in each care home.
When Paula Balfour, activities coordinator at Balhousie St Ronans in Dundee, used music therapy with resident Patsy Anderson recently, the results were immediate. Said Paula: “We played some of her favourite Elvis songs and in a matter of minutes Patsy, who has dementia, went from being tearful and anxious to engaged, talkative, playful and happy. She even joined us for a boogie around the office!”
Yvonne Manson said: “Balhousie Care Group staff have taken the playlist idea and run with it. That includes all the people in the care home, from carers to domestic staff and volunteers. We’ve even had help from schoolchildren helping put together the playlists. I can’t say I’m surprised because music puts a smile on everybody’s face.”
Paula Bain, training officer at Playlist for Life, said:
“We’re delighted to see that Balhousie Care Group are having such great results using Playlist for Life with their residents. Introducing playlists can improve the experience of care for residents, families and care workers alike, and it’s clear that Balhousie are doing great work rolling it out across their homes.”