How singing is transforming lives
3, Jul, 2009
A SINGING group in Castle Cary is helping transform the lives of people with memory problems.
Singing for the Brain was launched in the town by the Alzheimer’s Society in January this year to provide mental stimulation for people living with dementia, and an opportunity for their carers to share similar experiences.
The term dementia is used to describe symptoms caused when the brain is affected by certain diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, and sometimes as a result of a stroke.
Everyone will be affected differently but common symptoms include memory loss, mood changes and communication problems.
An estimated 7,500 people in Somerset live with dementia and it can have a devastating impact on those affected by it, their families and carers.
But help and support is available and Somerset County Council and the NHS are working together with organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, Age Concern Somerset, Mind, Carers UK, and St John Ambulance to help people with dementia and their carers.
The Singing for the Brain groups are an example of some of the support that is available.
Joan White, aged 72, of Castle Cary, was prompted to join by district councillor Henry Hobhouse who had visited a well-established group in Tisbury and realised the experience should be available to people in Cary. The sessions have been a lifeline for her and her husband John, 78, who has Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
“We have a great social life,” said Mrs White. “We have been coming almost every week. What amazed me is the camaraderie in here. There is a lot of fun and laughter. It keeps me going as a carer. It’s a wonderful couple of hours out and it stimulates me as well.”
Singing for the Brain stimulates the brain, memory and the muscles used for talking and singing, as well as relieving stress.
Jill Moore, 63, of North Cadbury, also attends the singing sessions at the Catherine’s Close Sheltered Housing Scheme in Cary with her brother-in-law John Stockham, 75, who has suffered a stroke and is unable to speak.
“We were welcomed here greatly,” Mrs Moore said. “It helps with all sorts of aspects of John’s care. We do communicate in various ways, despite the difficulties. It is important for John to make sounds and to move his mouth and exercise his vocal cords. He mouths the words and we are learning new songs all the time.
“If we were to go to a day centre it it would be difficult for John to participate and communicate. But coming here is something he looks forward to. He still continues to be a sociable person. We have fun and we continue the exercises at home. It keeps his brain active and has become another dimension to his life.”
Joni Clowrey started leading the singing sessions in Castle Cary after completing a training course in Bristol.
She said: “It’s fantastic. The difference after a number of sessions is amazing. We do a lot of breathing exercises and we have since found that is has increased everyone’s lung capacity.
“We have a structure which makes it familiar for them and it is great watching them make friends. There is a real sense of achievement.”
The singing sessions have been organised by Jill Lock from the Alzheimer’s Society with the help of volunteers.
For more information about the sessions call Jill Lock on 01935 473597.
Local councils, the South west Strategic Health Authority, primary care trusts and the Alzheimer’s Society are currently looking at how dementia services can be improved and working to raise awareness of the condition.
FOR information on what advice and support is available in Somerset, contact Somerset Direct on 0845 345 9133.