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Simple musical activities that you can do with someone living with Dementia

You may have a friend or a relative who is living with dementia. Sometimes you may find it hard to engage with that person, especially if they are distracted by something or if they are having difficulty communicating. Music has been proven to make people with dementia feel happier, more engaged, valued and helps to promote their self-worth and self-esteem. If you want to spend time with that person there are several musical activities that you can do together at home for a fun and engaging afternoon which will also help promote happy emotions for both of you.

Simple, one-to-one musical activities that you can do with someone living with dementia:

1. Singing – singing is probably one of the best things that you can do together. Think back to other times where you have both shared a musical experience; perhaps you both used to (or still do!) go to the theatre together, why not sing along to your favourite showtunes and act out the song together? Or sing a duet? Maybe you both love The Beatles? You could sing along to some upbeat Beatles tunes and have a laugh – or if you’re visiting a grandparent you could sing songs together that you remembered singing with them as a child. If you feel ‘silly’ about the idea of just singing for no apparent reason, you mustn’t be! If you feel more comfortable, have the music on the background and let your conversation slowly evolve into singing. You’ll be surprised how much better both of you feel afterwards.

2. Memory Bag – for a fun, musical reminiscent activity you can make extra personal, why not collect items that can spark up conversation with you and the other person? Everyday items such as keys, a teddy bear or feather duster (use your imagination!) to be put into a bag and picked out at random by the other person. This can then be teamed up with music - e.g. Key to my Heart, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, ‘Song of the Diddymen’ and can also make quite a conversation. This activity is also a sensory one – with the suspense of feeling and choosing a random item from the bag and bringing up a topic to talk and reminisce about.

3. Listening – sometimes just listening to music is a great form of therapy, especially if someone is quite stressed or anxious. Normally music with a slower tempo is better for this kind of activity, and listening may also encourage the person to sing along too. Maybe combine listening to music with photographs that may complement the style of music – if you’re looking at pictures from your holiday in Spain a few years ago, maybe some classical Spanish guitar music could be a nice touch to accompany your reminiscence?

4. Musical Instruments – you don’t have to be the world’s greatest musician – or even a musician at all! Getting hold of some percussion instruments or a keyboard(you can even download virtual ones for free on your tablet) is easy to do and you can both have fun improvising along to your favourite style of music. Or why not accompany each other singing along to a well-known song? Even if your music making doesn’t seem to have a point – you both just enjoying listening to the sounds that you are making, that also works too. If either of you are musicians, why not bring your instruments with you? Playing a musical instrument exercises every single part of the human brain and will be great to help the other person focus. You may be surprised how much the other person may remember and how much joy they will have from playing their instrument again if it has been a while.

5. Music for care – music in the background is also really helpful, especially if you are caring for that person. If you are providing intimate care such as washing or dressing and find that the other person often becomes distressed, try putting on some music in the background which can help serve as a distraction and help to calm them.

We hope you have found this blog useful – if you want to vary the types of musical activities you can do with older people – why not book a session with us? We work in all care homes in Cheshire, North Staffordshire and South Manchester and also provide one-to-one sessions – so why not contact us?Make a booking for a unique musical experience with a member of our team.

(Originally posted on LinkedIn 15.04.2015)

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