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05th September 2014

Music and Care

Listening music togetherMichelle Hanson, in a Guardian article of 2012 wrote about the transformative power of music for people with dementia, and contrasts this with a time when it was seen as having a marginal role in care services.

There is an ongoing expansion of this thinking, applied to all groups who may lack communication skills, including people with learning disabilities.

People being transformed

The University of the West of Scotland, together with local hospitals, in recent years set up community musical groups for people with dementia and their carers. Carers spoke of people being transformed through improved relationships and communication, with the music group being the highlight of the week.

Barchester Care has worked with the Nordoff Robbins musical charity to use music as an aid to recovery and increased communication. They have found it to be highly successful, and popular with staff and clients.

Carers have found that music can be used, not just as therapy or activity, but as a daily aid to communication. Challenging behaviour is often minimised when music is presented. Staff have found that to sing instructions, or to sing comments as work goes on, helps communication greatly where without it communication might well be poor or absent altogether, making care and support very difficult.

Capability Scotland is an organisation providing support to people with disability across Scotland. They have invested heavily in music technology and services, seeing music as a fundamental part of life and care.

Improvements in people's well-being and social inclusion

Soundbeam is an instrument playable through minimal body movements, or a wave of a hand. It has been used by Capability Scotland to allows people with restricted mobility or dexterity to compose and perform music. This has been found to help with improvements in people's well-being and social inclusion.

Another aspect of their work is promoting singing for people whom they support. A Choir of their clients in Glasgow has taken part in the Commonwealth Games this year as part of community involvement. The choir is largely self determining, regarding repertoire and arranging performances at various public events.

The Nordoff Robbins charity promotes music in all care contexts, and is a useful source of information and support. Their stated aim is to use music to transform lives, which many services have also found to work for them.

I think it is useful in providing care to remember that music can restore communication, ease relationships, and in many cases vastly improve people's wellbeing and social inclusion.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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