Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Guest blog from Sandra Currie, Care
This happens to me all the time, and I've never had everyone still asleep at the end.
But! Maybe I don't get booked for people who are end stage, so maybe I don't see them - so if this doesn't work for you, don't think it's your fault. It maybe that your residents are too poorly.
You may end up with just 3 or 4 in a room singing with you. But it will certainly look good to your management and quite rightly show that you are doing your best with a poorly audience.
1. Room - Put all the lights on. I can't overstate how important this is - and just this simple act will help in all activities.
With dementia and nursing units - shut the windows. Nothing makes people retract into themselves more than bring uncomfortable, and older people feel the cold very quickly, even when busy carers are warm.
2. Put a sing along CD on, (I use Max Bygraves singalongamax - the one in the red CD cover, available on Amazon as a warm up CD before I put my own backing music on) but put it on *quietly*
Just loud enough that it's breaking into people's sleepy minds, but not loud enough to be intrusive on their peacefulness.
3. As each track ends, turn up the volume a little bit. I take 3 tracks of background music before it's loud enough for everyone to hear and know that there is music on.
4. Start singing yourself. I'm not entirely sure why this works, but while I'm setting my equipment up, I aim to get the music to the right level and start singing (no microphone , just singing along with the max bygraves cd as if I'm singing to myself) before I do anything else. As soon as I start this singing along to the CD myself while I'm pottering around getting stuff ready, one or two residents will join in. And after a few minutes, many of them will be singing.
5. *Stay standing up*! Very important. And moving around while you're singing. Catch every resident's eye, it makes them feel they are important and you're glad they're there. Be extremely smiley.
6.Wear something bright if possible. If you're in your uniform, ADD something to it, to show that this is a special event - a silly hat is great, anything to make you into a *beacon* for residents' eyes to follow.
7. Maracas, small light tambourines, jingle sticks, long sticks like composers use - something, anything, for the resident to hold is a huge advantage:
They allow the resident to join in with the rhythm, (especially good for a non-communicating resident) but also -
they allow you to POINT to the resident, with your maraca, shake it in their direction, make different movements with it and the resident will copy, in other words, allows you to make it *personal* to that resident in a way that you can't do by pointing your finger because that's seen as rude. And They allow the resident to feel part of what's going on from the very beginning. They're holding something that's just for this occasion, it all adds to the fact that this is an EVENT, not just another hour passed.
And You'll see lots of residents with their eyes closed - you might assume they're asleep - but you'll notice the maraca *moving* And equally to the point, your managers/inspectors will see that you've engaged people who are seemingly fast asleep.
8. Learn at least 10 songs that your residents will know. Announce each song before you start singing it. "Let's sing Daisy Daisy..." This gives the resident *prior access* to the memory of the words, the feeling that they're already familiar with the song "I know this one!" - even just a few seconds head start on knowing what the song's going to be, has a massive difference on whether they'll be able/want to sing it or not.
9. Spinning Plate analogy - have you seen the magicians who set up plates spinning on spikes, and whenever one looks like it's slowing down, they give it a quick extra spin to stop it toppling off?
That's what you have to do - once someone is engaged, keep directing your focus on them, then move to the next person, and move back again, then have 3 plates (residents) engaged, then add some more ... after a few minutes they'll be actively waiting for the next time you direct your huge smile, maraca and expressive eyes at them.
10 Microphone - if you have access to one, I'd highly recommend using it. It allows you to be able to be heard over the sound of everything else going on, and the important thing in my opinion, is to set it so it's the same volume as someone would hear if they were being spoken to by *someone sitting right next to them*. So - set it loud enough for everyone to hear, but then sing/talk into it very softly.
Good luck !
Sandra's Sweet and Low CD, designed for people with dementia is excellent for using in a small group or for individuals to listen to with headphones.
It runs for approx 30 mins and is filled with songs that anyone over 70 will be familiar with.
Click HERE to purchase