Sandra Currie has been a care home singer for 15 years, singing mostly in dementia units.
I absolutely love my job, when you see the difference that music can make to someone, and see everyone singing along, it just makes you feel so privileged. However, there are some people in dementia units who just can’t tolerate music, no matter how loud or quiet. It raises their anxiety and agitation, they can’t tell what I’m singing and they certainly can’t sing along. But when I sit quietly with them after the show, and sing one-to-one without any backing music, they join in, often much to the surprise of the carers. So I realised that, for a person whose dementia has affected their ability to distinguish sounds, or cope with mixed or unexpected sounds, such as drums and high pitched backing music, a normal music CD can become, “a confusing, distressing, racket” This is why this cd was made.
How is this CD different? All the elements which raise anxiety on standard recordings have been eliminated. The only sound is the human voice. On this CD, I sing in a contralto vocal range, which is Sweet and Low, deep, calm, peaceful, and soothing.
What type of songs are on the CD? – here are some examples - Oh my darling Clementine, Bobby Shafto, Walzing Matilda, Lily of Laguna – 21 songs all together. These are songs that people over the age of 80 would have been singing in their childhoods, teens and early twenties, the time when music appreciation develops in the brain - the songs are SO ingrained into their early years, people with dementia, especially Alzheimers, can access them much more easily than later songs.
Who is this CD for? It’s for the person over 80 years, who finds noise distressing, and so is not able to get the enormous benefit music from this era can bring. It’s for whenever someone could do with distraction from pain or anxiety or loneliness, but who is too advanced in their dementia, or too tired to engage with conversation, the T.V or radio, or any standard music cd. It’s particularly for people on end of life care. Hearing is the last sense to go. We hear when we are sleeping, and even when we are otherwise non-responsive. It’s for carers or spouses for when you can’t be there, you know they’re being kept company by a soothing calm voice – but also when you ARE there– and could do with some background sound, maybe when you can’t think what to say – just sing a long with the bits that you know – it’s one sure way of communicating.
How do I know it works? I sent out a trial cd to 30 dementia care homes. I started getting comments back. I knew the response would be good, from what I’ve witnessed over 15 years. What I didn’t anticipate, is just how good it was. Here are some of the comments from the care homes, from Activity Coordinators and managers.
* I have used your CD so many times now it is fantastic .. I have had some great responses it brought me to tears on my first session. Honestly I have never known a CD to work as well as yours did.
*Lifesaver today one of our residents just wouldn’t settle, she was upset and refusing everything. We put your cd on and she settled fine.
*Actually had two carers arguing over who could use the CD today!
*My mother is permanently in bed, little communication, pretty isolated. We played the CD to her........ She smiled!! Had me and my sister in tears as she's very unresponsive.
*My resident thoroughly enjoyed this CD. She is quite verbally aggressive, shouting repeatedly at people "Go to hell". Her shouting continued for the first two tracks, then suddenly calmed. I observed from outside the bedroom as she sang and laughed at the CD. She really seemed to benefit so much from the songs and was in a great mood for the rest of the day.
*I had noticed that at times this lady became quite agitated when carers put the radio on in her room. But with your CD, she opened her eyes, smiling at both myself and the CD player, and mouthed the words. This CD is very beneficial for anyone on end of life/palliative care.
*My lady’s dementia and pain cause her to shout out, but she found this CD a fantastic distraction. Her reactions were wonderful to see, she sang along, tapping her feet and answering the questions asked in between the songs.
*This gentleman does not communicate, and didn't initially react to the first two songs, then as the CD progressed, in particular when the wartime/sea shanty songs came on, he lifted his arms and hands to touch mine, raised his eyebrows and mouthed the words to the song.
*This lady sang, moved her hands and feet, and said “Thank you mum for singing to me, I will pay you next time"
The making if this CD has cost me far more financially, stress-wise and time-wise than I ever thought it would, but the whole process has been a pleasure, and the feedback from the recipients is worth more to me than anything.To order your copy click the link below.