The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things for everyone this year, but those in nursing homes are even more affected by restrictions and health risks. Despite the difficulties, one initiative in England that brings music to nursing home residents, including those with dementia, is finding a way to continue to provide their important work.
The Manchester Camerata Orchestra in Manchester, England, began its Music in Mind project in 2012. On its website, the orchestra says the aim is to use improvisation to help those living with dementia express themselves and communicate with others.
According to a report from The Guardian, nine musicians and two music therapists visited 20 area residential homes in 15 weekly sessions, until COVID hit. Now, the orchestra is adapting to the pandemic by restarting Music in Mind, remotely. That includes backing tracks, Zoom feedback, extra activities, and mentoring. So far, eight homes have joined in.
Karen Sykes, an activities co-coordinator at one of those homes, says, “This package has come at the right time. I had run out of ideas. Some residents were deteriorating. But now, using MiM percussion instruments we can accompany the Camerata’s recordings – their jigs, rock’n’roll and tangos. Everyone’s spirits, including mine, have been lifted. Whenever a face lights up, whenever someone who rarely gets involved joins in the music, when families say we’ve improved the quality of life of their loved one, the feeling we get is unbelievable.”
Making Adjustments During the Pandemic
Each home that has signed onto to the remote option has had to adapt based on their own resources and situations. They are able to get feedback and ask for help online as they handle the program themselves. Some may have to stick with one-on-one sessions in a patient’s room, but a few homes may be able to do socially distanced sessions with ten or fewer people in a common area. To provide a sense of familiarity, sessions still feature the same opening and closing songs created before the pandemic.
John Habron is a music therapist who has worked with the initiative. In a video posted to the orchestra’s YouTube channel, he said the project can help loved ones and caretakers see a new side to dementia patients, which can lead to a new appreciation for them. He explained that it also helps facilitators and the group see that dementia doesn’t just affect the patient themselves.
In terms of getting residents involved, Habron said, “The most important thing that one has to try to develop is trust… and because of that trust, then people start to grow in confidence.”