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Music Sessions in Community Care

The power of music to integrate and cure is quite fundamental.
It is the profoundest non-chemical medication.”

Oliver Sacks

Playing soothing harp and lyre music, relaxing classical guitar and singing ‘old favourites’ with the mandolin and ukulele to groups or individuals in residential care homes, nursing homes and hospices.

Music appeals to everyone and can break down barriers to communication.  The therapeutic effect of singing along in groups is well known and music also has a positive emotional effect, promoting a sense of calm.

Residents enjoy singing along and find the music soothing, calming and relaxing.  Watching the instruments being played is visually pleasing for residents whose lives have become physically limiting.  Playing music to individuals or groups has generated memories and encouraged interesting conversation.

Playing music for those on palliative care is very soothing for the person as well as their family and friends and brings a peaceful and comforting environment, enabling the person to relax and let go through their process of transition.  The harp has also been described as an instrument that creates a bridge between the physical and non-physical worlds.

Studies have revealed that harp music can lower blood pressure, relieve pain and reduce anxiety and depression.  Research with Alzheimers’ Disease patients has demonstrated that music can improve mood, self-expression, mental processing, speech, sensory stimulation and motor skills.  Studies have shown that people with dementia have been able to recall memories through listening to music.  They have also had improved mental capacity for the time during and after the music has been played.

Dementia symptoms can make people feel quite agitated and restless, yet when they listen to music, they can become calmer.  In care home settings, this enables visitors or staff to relate to residents in a more meaningful way because staff or visitors do not have to deal with behavioural issues.  When residents are more relaxed, they are more capable of having a conversation and an enjoyable experience.

I was fortunate to spend time with Doris Lamb, a lady in her 90s and former nurse, who had Alzheimer’s disease in later life.  I often played the harp to Doris and sometimes she played too.  Doris would get engrossed in her own music and was often surprised to hear how good it sounded!

During one session, I asked:  “If you could see music, what do you imagine it would look like?”  Doris gestured her hands in a gentle wave motion and replied:  “Like a film with wings floating on it.  The music makes itself and it cradles me.”

With thanks to Doris Lamb (1923-2016)
for teaching me to play music
to people with dementia.


Contact:  Rebecca Penkett

+44 (0)7976 834301

Connect on Twitter: @Harp_Alignment