Belfast Telegraph

New music initiative helps residents cope with dementia

Personal and meaningful tunes can bring back feelings, memories and sometimes even abilities once thought lost.

Sally Campton, centre, with Gordon McMullan and Josephine Jones, residents at Palmerston Residential Care Home in East Belfast (Darren Kidd/Presseye/PA)
Sally Campton, centre, with Gordon McMullan and Josephine Jones, residents at Palmerston Residential Care Home in East Belfast (Darren Kidd/Presseye/PA)

By Michael McHugh, PA

A new music initiative is aiming to help residents with dementia cope with the condition.

Personal and meaningful tunes can bring back feelings, memories and sometimes even abilities once thought lost.

It can also strengthen relationships, reconnect families and help manage some of the symptoms of dementia, experts believe.

Sally Campton, a manager at Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association, said: “A personal playlist makes the power of music available to people wherever and whenever they need it.”

The association will be providing its residents across Northern Ireland with the opportunity to create their own individual “playlist for life” over the coming months.

The Playlist for Life initiative has really opened my eyes to the power of music to reach all people but in particular those with dementia Sally Campton

Ms Campton, volunteer and community outreach manager for the housing association, recently became the first Playlist for Life trainer in Northern Ireland.

She said: “The Playlist for Life initiative has really opened my eyes to the power of music to reach all people but in particular those with dementia.

“It can alter mood and have a very calming effect.”

Residents and family members have already provided very positive feedback on the initiative and enjoyed creating the unique and personal playlists, she added.

Claire Davies and Karen Mudge, daughters of Palmerston Care Home resident Muriel Jones, were part of the first relatives’ group to receive Playlist training.

Ms Mudge said: “Mum is sometimes quite agitated, but her music helps soothe her.

“And on days when she is not so engaged and non-verbal, her music lifts her.

“You can see her smile and there’s a thoughtfulness – you can see it must be connecting with some particular memory.”

Ms Davies said her mother can still sing the words of a song or a favourite hymn.

“You can reach her with music. It’s like you find mum again for that moment, which is just lovely for us too.”

Ms Campton has provided Playlist for Life training to 14 staff and 7 relatives of residents at Palmerston Residential Care Home in East Belfast, which is owned and managed by Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association.

The charity will also be hosting special musical teas across all of its houses in Northern Ireland.

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