Singing as a way to communicate with people with dementia
article written by Jane Bentley
It was 2005 – the first time I walked into a long-term ward for people with dementia.
I had been invited to run a music session, but was greeted at the door with ‘Well – that won’t work with our patients – they’re too far gone’. This response came from staff who worked in incredibly difficult situations every day and knew so much about these people – and yet still assumed that there was ‘nobody home.’
They let the session happen anyway – and at one point a lady who had been withdrawn, hunched, and quiet began to come to life before my eyes – starting to look up and out, to seek meaningful eye contact – to start moving her lips – and sing!
And then she burst into tears. I asked if she’d like me to stop – “No” – she said quietly – “I’ve come back. I’d forgotten who I was. I’m here!”. At which point there were two of us in tears.