Hallmark Carehomes
Music and Hallmark Care Homes

7 May 2019

Music and Hallmark Care Homes

When you hear a song, a piece of music or even the music from a TV programme or advertisement, how often does a memory associated with it pop into your mind?

We can all think of at least one song that, when we hear it, triggers an emotional response. It might be a song that accompanied the first dance at your wedding, for example, or a song that reminds you of a great holiday or a special time in your life. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Our hearing is the very first sense we develop in the womb and the last to leave us when we die. Research shows that babies as young as five months old can tell the difference between a happy, upbeat tune, and a sad and gloomy one, and it’s all to do with how our brains work.

Music can help put you in a good mood, it can help to soothe pain and anxiety, and calming music can decrease blood pressure and ease stress. It also gets your attention – that’s why TV adverts use memorable tunes to get you back watching when you’ve gone to put the kettle on.

Even where a part of the brain has sustained some damage, perhaps through dementia or an injury, other parts of the brain will still respond in some way to music even if music wasn’t really that important to a person.

A cure for dementia is still a long way off, which makes it imperative to find ways of improving the quality of life for people living with the disease. Several health bodies have recommended the use of music, and various research studies have shown that participatory music programmes can regulate symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce agitation, facilitate social interaction, retain memory and improve general wellbeing.

A research study to measure the impact of regular music sessions is being carried out at Kew House in Wimbledon by researchers from the Applied Music Research Centre at the University of Roehampton. The findings are very positive so far, showing that memory loss is no barrier to learning new material.

The other thing about music, of course, is that it’s fun and it can be shared with others. It’s great to discover people who know the same songs as you – music definitely brings people together. Music can also support a sense of identity and culture.

Hallmark Care Homes’ lifestyles teams support a huge range of opportunities to be involved with music, such as traditional sing-alongs, singing for the brain groups and playing musicals in the cinema, and some homes, such as Lakeview in Surrey, have their own choirs where people of all abilities come together to sing.

Ty Enfys in Cardiff has engaged in a 10-week project with a group called the Forget-Me-Not Chorus. They are a Cardiff-based charity that supports people living with dementia and their families through weekly singing and creative workshops. The project is facilitated by a musical director (from the Welsh National Opera), and at the end of the 10 weeks, the group will share their music in a performance at Penarth Pier.

At Bucklesham Grange in Ipswich and Anisha Grange in Billericay, weekly sessions called ‘Songs & Smiles’ take place where residents and small children from local
playgroups and nurseries join forces to sing and laugh together. Everyone joins in using scarves, shakers and other percussion instruments. Music is something that crosses all generations, bringing joy to young and old.

There are so many ways to introduce music into a care home.

Here are some ideas from care homes across the country:

• Musicians and singers come to the care home to perform and enable residents to ‘sing along’ or participate in other ways. Performers might be professional musicians, volunteers or amateur choirs, or a combination of all, and the music could be from any genre or period.

• Karaoke machines, sing-along CDs and similar tools are useful ways to enable non-musicians (and musicians) to lead the live experience – the more singing the better.

• Many care homes take opportunities to sing at every occasion: care workers singing while assisting residents with different things, music before lunch and CDs playing in corners where residents gather.

Bringing enjoyment through music can be achieved on any budget, and the benefits can be remarkable for everyone involved. We found an easy and inexpensive way to make shakers:

1. Take a small-size empty plastic water or drinks bottle – some of them even have a lovely curved space to make it easy to hold.

2. Remove the lid and half fill it with dried pasta shapes or rice (you can get different sounds with different sizes of pasta).

3. Replace the lid and tape it up so it won’t come off.

4. There’s your shaker!


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