A Devon businessman, singer/songwriter and Dementia Foundation have come together to create a unique new system for helping people living with dementia enjoy a good quality of life and independent living.
The idea was created by Torquay based businessman Ashley Sims and Norman McNamara, the Founder of the Devon based Purple Angel Dementia Awareness Campaign. Norman explains that “for people living with dementia the progress of the disease can gradually turn off all the functions of the brain like lightbulbs going out. However memories of music are some of the deepest and last to be lost “
As populations of developed nations age, so the number of cases of dementia increases. As a way of helping care for and support people with dementia, music has been shown to often have a dramatic effect.
Whether it’s 60s soul, operatic arias or songs from the shows, music can soothe, stimulate and bring to mind long-forgotten memories..
According to Age UK dementia is rapidly becoming the health and social care challenge of the 21st century. Numbers affected are set to soar because of an expanding older population. The total number of people with dementia in the UK is predicted to be in excess of 1m by 2021. So, while there are no long-term cures, ways of alleviating symptoms are becoming more available and accessible.
The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kick start the grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.
'We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life,' says Professor Paul Robertson, a concert violinist and academic who has made a study of music in dementia care.
'We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.'
Now Purple Angel Music is taking that research and using music not just to unlock memories but to help those living with dementia remember daily tasks and live full and independent lives for as long as possible. The concept is simple, but incredibly effective.
An MP3 player is loaded with specially adapted tunes, reminding people to carry out tasks, such as eating, drinking and washing.
The south west crooner Michael Campari wrote and recorded the special songs. Familiar songs such as Love by Nat King Cole, with a new message reminding the listener that “ It’s time to make a cup of tea” and many more. Using classic music that unlocks memories, but changing the words to provide reminders to perform tasks that help prolong independent living.