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Posted on Sep 16 2019 by Bobbie Kelly

We're holding a special music event for our patients living with dementia

We’re excited to be supporting BBC Music Day on Thursday 26 September, which this year is helping to bring music to people living with dementia.

Supporting the BBC initiative is disco-legend and multiple Grammy-winning musician, Nile Rodgers. An ambassador for BBC Music Day 2019, Nile has had personal experience of family members living with dementia.

Statistics show that dementia was the primary cause of death in England and Wales last year and a million people in the UK are expected to be living with dementia by 2025. While there is no cure, there's growing evidence that music can help improve symptoms such as depression and agitation.

At St Andrew’s in Northampton we are hosting a live music event for the 70 patients in our care who are living with the condition. Our special event will feature live performances from The Femmes - a glamorous vintage three-piece singing group - alongside talented solo artist Natasha King. The musicians will be singing a variety of songs from across the ages, including hits such as Chattanooga Choo Choo, Rum & Coca Cola and Mr Sandman.

Clinical Psychologist at St Andrew's Healthcare, Dr Andrew Stranaghan, said:

“BBC Music Day is an exciting event for our patients to get involved in. Here at St Andrew’s we recognise the power of music, and how it can help people with dementia to live happy and fulfilled lives. While not all of our patients are able to sing along, we know that they enjoy listening to music.

“Music engages almost every part of our brain. Studies have shown that the auditory system, which conveys our sense of hearing develops early on in pregnancy and babies have been found to react to music in the womb as early as 16 weeks. So it’s very much a case of first to develop, last to leave.”

Staff at St Andrew’s also say they’ve seen first-hand how music can also help reduce anxiety and depression, enhance quality of life and have a positive impact on staff sharing the experience. It also has the ability to pull out old memories; the right song can instantly transport you back in time, eliciting strong emotions - even if it hasn’t been heard for years.

Dr Stranaghan added: 

“Music can potentially provide links to a person’s past given its ability to elicit both emotions and memories. Whilst some of our patients have problems with their short term memory, their ability to recall things from the past remain.

"Being able to sing along to lyrics and engage in conversations about particular songs can potentially help to preserve these memories. It can also be a shared group experience amongst patients and staff, or something that is enjoyed in the comfort of one’s own space. In any instance the key is identifying what music is meaningful to and liked by each particular person.

“We’re really looking forward to BBC Music Day, and expect the music to have a positive effect on our patients’ wellbeing.”

Music is not something unique to St Andrew’s. Our music therapist Greg Floyd regularly visits our dementia wards to sing songs or engage patients in playing a musical instrument.

“It’s lovely to see our patients come together and respond and engage with the music and movement activities we put on,” Greg said. 

“It’s heart-warming to see the small shifts in the patients taking part - smiles and singing are happening on a weekly basis and it has been reported back that there has already been a significant uplift in the mood of patients.”

BBC Music Day will also be celebrated by other charities and organisations including Age UK, NHS England and Nordoff Robbins, all of whom are holding their own events to celebrate the importance of music.