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Entertaining dementia patients

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Northerner 31 Jan 12 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,mg 31 Jan 12 - 01:28 PM
Northerner 31 Jan 12 - 01:36 PM
Gurney 31 Jan 12 - 01:41 PM
Northerner 31 Jan 12 - 01:43 PM
lefthanded guitar 31 Jan 12 - 02:01 PM
Bernard 31 Jan 12 - 02:35 PM
Mo the caller 31 Jan 12 - 03:12 PM
GUEST,leeneia 31 Jan 12 - 03:18 PM
gnu 31 Jan 12 - 03:40 PM
Jim Dixon 31 Jan 12 - 04:16 PM
foggers 31 Jan 12 - 05:25 PM
Greg B 31 Jan 12 - 06:25 PM
sheila 31 Jan 12 - 09:37 PM
GUEST,999 31 Jan 12 - 09:42 PM
Genie 31 Jan 12 - 11:10 PM
Genie 31 Jan 12 - 11:18 PM
Mr Happy 01 Feb 12 - 05:54 AM
Mr Happy 01 Feb 12 - 05:59 AM
banjoman 01 Feb 12 - 06:11 AM
GUEST,Stuart Reed 01 Feb 12 - 06:30 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 01 Feb 12 - 09:34 AM
VirginiaTam 01 Feb 12 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Stuart Reed 01 Feb 12 - 03:22 PM
Genie 01 Feb 12 - 04:03 PM
Genie 01 Feb 12 - 04:19 PM
Barbara Shaw 01 Feb 12 - 04:45 PM
Genie 01 Feb 12 - 11:52 PM
Genie 01 Feb 12 - 11:57 PM
GUEST,The Shambles 02 Feb 12 - 05:17 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 02 Feb 12 - 05:39 AM
Genie 02 Feb 12 - 06:12 AM
banjoman 02 Feb 12 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 02 Feb 12 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 02 Feb 12 - 07:24 AM
Barbara Shaw 02 Feb 12 - 09:51 AM
Northerner 02 Feb 12 - 11:33 AM
Beer 02 Feb 12 - 12:59 PM
Joe Offer 02 Feb 12 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,roderick warner 02 Feb 12 - 03:19 PM
Joe Offer 02 Feb 12 - 04:32 PM
Doug Chadwick 02 Feb 12 - 04:48 PM
Northerner 03 Feb 12 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Feb 12 - 11:39 AM
YorkshireYankee 03 Feb 12 - 07:44 PM
Joe Offer 04 Feb 12 - 05:02 AM
GUEST,999 04 Feb 12 - 07:34 AM
tonyteach1 04 Feb 12 - 01:12 PM
GUEST,Eliza 04 Feb 12 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,999 04 Feb 12 - 01:27 PM
YorkshireYankee 04 Feb 12 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Eliza 04 Feb 12 - 02:41 PM
Flash Company 05 Feb 12 - 10:45 AM
Northerner 06 Feb 12 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Feb 12 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Eliza 06 Feb 12 - 12:59 PM
Genie 18 Feb 12 - 10:54 PM
GUEST 01 Sep 15 - 06:01 PM
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Subject: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 01:20 PM

Hello! I have just done my first (paid) booking at a nursing home. I was booked for Storytelling Week. I am a storyteller, but am also a singer and poet.

Rather than have a possibly passive audience simply listening to a set of folk tales, I opted for a mainly reminiscence session (though I did tell one short, humorous story and read a few of my poems). I brought in a set of objects that included clippings from scented plants in my garden for the residents to touch and smell, some liquorice twigs and a few traditional sweets, a pack about World War Two, plus a variety of vintage postcards. And some chat from myself!

The residents of this home have dementia. They had additional disabilities too - mobility problems, hearing problems and visual impairment. This meant that I had to alter my programme a bit. Instead of looking at the postcards the residents had to have me describe them instead, for instance. I had asked in advance about their disabilities but had not been given a very full description.

Anyway, the good news is that they were lovely people and as I am a friendly, sociable person I was successful in keeping them engaged for the whole period.

I would like to do bookings at other homes. I would suspect that the residents at other homes may have similar disabilities. Is there any advice you can give me for entertaining people with this range of disabilities? I would like to add singing into the mix, but it appears that songs sheets may not be suitable even with large fonts, and with hearing problems as well, I am wondering what the best approach would be.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 01:28 PM

I think absolutely singing..just a few of the old classics..home on the range, etc. mg


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 01:36 PM

Thank you. I'm from the UK, so will think of British classics that the audiences would enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Gurney
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 01:41 PM

From limited experience, it seems that while short-term memory might present difficulties, some 'residents' often have fair long-term memory, and can remember the songs of their youth. You could try a song or two from sixty years ago.
Assuming that you are in England, the monologues that were recited by Stanley Holloway are often remembered with glee, and easily obtained online from 'Make 'em Laugh.' Much easier to learn than songs, too, without accompaniment.

And 'well done you' for doing it.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 01:43 PM

Yes, I was thinking of adding monologues.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 02:01 PM

It's a nice thing to do for the older people. A friend of mine's spouse has dementia, but when I played some love songs, it reached right into the memory and produced a smile.

I would suggest playing familiar standards - and also 'up' melodies are likely to reach into the heart and give a warm smile.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 02:35 PM

The most important thing is not to perform 'at' them - make sure you involve them as much as possible, even though it may seem they aren't interested or even taking any notice. After your show is over, you'll be amazed by all the positive comments from them!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Mo the caller
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 03:12 PM

The Stanley Holloway sounds a good idea, no song sheet needed to join in the chorus with "on 'is 'orse with 'is 'awk in 'is 'and" and "Sam, Sam pick up thee musket"


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 03:18 PM

I'm hardly an expert, but I did help with two small musical shows at a home for Alzheimer's patients. A friend who is an RN said that the director loved seeing the patients alert and socializing. Usually, she said, they sit silent and hunkered over.

So it may be that anything that gets them alert is good, and interaction is better.

Do insist that some member of the staff be within calling distance. I remember a time when a man in a wheelchair suddenly backed it up, hitting the hand of a woman in another wheelchair. It hurt her, she lost her temper, and started upbraiding him, and there was nobody around to help out.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: gnu
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 03:40 PM

Northerner... great thread. And your OP was simply amazing to me!

"I brought in a set of objects that included clippings from scented plants in my garden for the residents to touch and smell, some liquorice twigs and a few traditional sweets, a pack about World War Two, plus a variety of vintage postcards."

Clippings... I would have never thought of such! Bravo! I am gonna use your ideas. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 04:16 PM

I agree about the old classics—but what is old enough?

I recommend you ask what is the average age of the residents (ask the nurses, not the residents themselves; they may not know!) and then look up the songs that were hits when those people were age 15-25. That may be more recent than you think!

For example, for a 90-year-old, that would be the period 1937-1947.

That would NOT include, say, LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART, which goes back to 1910! Today's nursing home residents would probably find that too old-fashioned.

It won't be long before musicians who play in nursing homes will need to learn some Beatles songs.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: foggers
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 05:25 PM

I think you have some great ideas there; multi-sensory activities are definitely the way to go. And keeping each item fairly short helps with attention span problems. Avoid long explanations and rambling sentences; folks with short term memory problems need short, direct sentences and closed rather than open questions. There is lots of info on the Alzheimers Society website to help you understand some of this kind of stuff about the usual effects on people's functioning.

People with dementia type problems lose some inhibitions so be prepared for the possibility of powerful reactions. You can't predict when something you have brought in could have deeply personal associations for someone. I second the advice that you should ensure that staff are in range; you are there because of your entertainment skills and not for tackling care tasks.

Trust your creative and human instincts; you clearly have much to offer and it will be good to hear more from you.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Greg B
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 06:25 PM

The Compass Rogues used to play at a memory-support program. In fact, it was at Bellvue Hospital in New York City. Was always rather amusing to say "I'm playing Bellvue today." Great straight line. In any case, the audience was great. They had fun. We had fun. Just did our normal sea chanteys and tunes.

We probably were doing a lot of stuff they remembered from having lived in New York during the folk revival.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: sheila
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 09:37 PM

When I visited a family member in a nursing home/rehab centre, I was impressed by the almost magical way the patients responded to songs. Instead of slumping over with blank looks on their faces, they perked up, sat up, smiled, and sang along. The home is regularly visited by various entertainers, who talk directly to their audience, and encourage them to join in.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,999
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 09:42 PM

I played at a nursing home--as I do about three or four time a year--and last time one of the gals there had just had her 96th birthday. She was pretty bright and still had all her wheels spinning. Because of the area I'm in--lotsa farming, horse raising--almost anything to do with either is cool, no matter how old or new the song. Even did some rock stuff. It helps shake up their days. Usually, they don't want me to leave--not the people who live there, but the people who work there. They think I'm making a break for it. I always have fun, tell a few jokes, sing a few songs. It's volunteer work I enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 11:10 PM

Yes, if you do songs that the residents remember (usually, but not always, from their childhood), it helps stimulate memory as well as emotions.    (And tears are not always a bad thing, either.)   But even people with dementia can sometimes learn to sing along with a new song (or one they've forgotten they knew) if it has simple, repetitive parts.   E.g., I've often had great success with getting Alzheimer's patients to sing and dance along to "La Bamba" even if they don't know Spanish, because it's so lively and the refrain is so simple.


It helps a lot to come prepared with a large and somewhat diverse repertoire of possible songs, because, as has been pointed out before, memory care facilities today may have residents ranging from their mid-fifties to their nineties.

I've been doing music professionally for the full range of senior facilities, including nursing homes and memory care units, for a number of years. Each population is a little different (e.g., in Jewish homes, there are some Yiddish, Hebrew, and Ladino favorites and in communities with many Hispanics those "old favorites" will be popular Spanish songs). If it's a Christian community, many of the old-time hymns or spirituals will probably get a lot of people singing along. (I use a medley of "Jesus Loves Me" and "He's Got The Whole World In His Hand" often in groups like this, and it gets most people singing along and/or tapping their feet or clapping.)

But one thing that very often is a great asset is having the residents use rhythm instruments while I play and sing and some sing along.   Many who can't sing along do just fine with the rhythm instruments.    (I recommend using relatively soft percussion instruments, because the noise can get quite loud otherwise.)

If there are staff members present — which is ALWAYS important, for reasons mentioned above — they can often get some residents up to dance to the music too.

Song sheets, I've found, are seldom very helpful with any group where attention span is an issue. Even in assisted living facilities, I've found they can be as much a distraction (with people flipping through the pages instead of focusing on the music at hand) as a help. (Actually, that can happen even in song circles with young, "normal" people - but that's a topic for many another thread.)

When I sing for and with dementia groups, it's delightful to do silly songs, e.g., parodies of old favorites.
E.g.,
"Let Me Call You Lizzie, You're the Car For Me" ("Let Me Call You Sweetheart")
"Harry, Harry, Here Is My Answer True" ("Bicycle Built For Two")
"Red Snails In My Sunsuit" ("Red Sails In The Sunset")
or a parody of "My Bonnie" in which "I stuck my feet out of the window./ Next morning, my neighbors had fled."
or "Doggie In The Window" as a bark-along song.
There are almost always a few residents who crack up when I sing a silly song or comic twist to an oldie.   Even if 80 % of my audience doesn't "get" the humor, it's worth it to see that spark of recognition and delight in the faces of those who can.    I think getting people to laugh is one of the best sorts of therapy.
And the good thing about Alzheimer's is that a good joke never gets old.


Something I would also recommend — though it's hard advice for me to follow — is not to be reluctant to sing the same time 2 or 3 times during the same session.    Very often, when I ask for requests or just get them spontaneously, they are for songs we've just finished doing a few minutes ago. Obviously that's because singing them makes them pop into people's minds.      I don't like to repeat a song in a group where many in the audience are very much aware that we've just sung it, but in a group where pretty much everyone had short-term memory deficits, it can work very well to repeat the song.   You may find even more people singing along the second or third time through.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 31 Jan 12 - 11:18 PM

One thing I would add, as a sort of aside, but an important one.

I often encounter the attitude, expressed either directly or innocently implied, that doing music for dementia patients or other nursing home residents is expected to be a volunteer activity.    If you're inclined to do volunteer work, this is a fine sort to do.   
But music as a therapeutic activity is as valuable as most other types of therapy, and if you approach this as a professional with the needs of your clientele in mind, you deserve to be compensated for your time, expenses, and expertise too.    Especially if doing this work takes time that you would otherwise be spending on some other "real job."

(Actually, I think that goes for all musicians. But it does seem that there's more commonly an expectation on the part of the general public that music done as therapy is volunteer work.)

Genie


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Mr Happy
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 05:54 AM

In one of my former lives, I worked with older people in day & residential settings.

When choosing songs to do, or any other activities, its important to involve your potential participants in this process.

Also consider the age groups you have & what music would've been popular in their younger days e.g most folk who'll be in nursing homes etc will be in the 70- 90+ group, so stuff from the 1930's onwards will probably go down ok


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Mr Happy
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 05:59 AM

Also, where feasible, have some shaky eggs, tambourines etc to allow more participation.

I've even used spare strung instruments & kazoos are always good for a laugh!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: banjoman
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 06:11 AM

We have done lots of bookings (paid & unpaid) in nursing homes and always enjoyed them. I agree that its important to involve the audience as much as possible and we usually get a few requests. Its amazing how much people will join in and contribute. I always make sure that the staff are aware of the sort of programme we do and we often find that the staff enjoy it just as much
I quote one elderly gentleman "That was my wife's favourite song, will you do it again" This from a person who the staff said hardly ever spoke or communicated with the others. Very rewarding. Percussion instruments handed out by the staff always lend to the afternoon.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Stuart Reed
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 06:30 AM

In the UK I too have found that dementia sufferers often have surprising recall of their childhood and the songs they sang and can be a springboard for reminiscence sessions about schools, toys, games, food etc. Some examples:

I've Got Sixpence
Coming Round The Mountain
Molly Malone
Quartermaster's Stores
Teddy Bears' Picnic
All Things Bright And Beautiful
Loch Lomond

As has been pointed out above, the key decades are the 1930s and 40s but I would add a cautionary note that constant references to the Second World War can sometimes cause distress to those who lived through the blitz. With that caveat in mind some of the songs of the time can be very evocative, eg:

Wish Me luck As You Wave Me Goodbye
White Cliffs Of Dover
Bless 'Em All
Lilli Marlene
A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
...and anything by Flanagan & Allen and George Formby.

Others which always seem to work:

When I Grow Too Old To Dream
Old Man River
Side By Side
You Are My Sunshine
Deep In The Heart Of Texas
Apple Blossom Time
Don't Fence Me In

Of course any list of songs would have to include a selection of those loosely categorised as Music Hall or Cockney and which are embedded in the national psyche. Obvious examples:

Daisy Daisy
Show Me The Way To Go Home
I Belong To Glasgow
Roll out The Barrel
If You Were The Only Girl In The World

Most of my work these days is in this sector so if anyone would like a fuller list of recommendations please PM me.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 09:34 AM

It won't be long before musicians who play in nursing homes will need to learn some Beatles songs.

My mother recently passed, aged 80, after suffering 6 years severe stroke illness in a Tyneside nursing home. She remained passionate about music throughout her active life, as did my grandmother if it came to that - in the years before she died in ripe old age she listened to nothing but Abba. I suppose everyone will be different in this respect, but I dread the day when I'm in a nursing home and some well meaning entertainer regales me with pop hits of the 1970s, or even Roll Out the fecking Barrel, no matter how embedded these might be in 'The National Psyche' - whatever the hell that is! Hopefully I'll be too far gone by then to notice, but at the age of 50 (I've worked with far younger stroke / dementia sufferers) I'd say there is nothing by Flanagan & Allen and George Formby (etc.) that wouldn't cause extreme distress in people of the Baby Boomer generation.


A vast Database is the key here; it's not just a matter of songs, but particular recordings. Easily done in this MP3 age.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 01:43 PM

Where I work the Heritage Outreach team provides Reminiscence training to carers and care workers of people with dementia. We have a sample training kit which includes things like old toys and games, postcards, various products in retro packaging including sweets and soaps, old advertising posters, old radio recordings on CD, etc.

The training includes an element of engaging dementia sufferers into telling stories about their past which if the family is willing are recorded. We have had many comments from carers stating they get their loved ones back during reminiscence therapy. It is like they never went away.

I don't think our local authority would pay for entertainers especially since they are now selling the service described above when they used to give it free to any who requested it.

Good on you Northerner. Good luck with this venture and may you reap great spiritual rewards.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Stuart Reed
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 03:22 PM

Suibhne Astray: it's not just a matter of songs, but particular recordings

It's absolutely NOT about recordings - there's constant canned music and TVs permanently tuned to ITV in care homes as it is. It's about singing live and engaging with the residents.

And it's not baby boomers we are working with at the moment but people born in the 1920s and 30s. When your time comes, even if you don't develop dementia, trust me: you'll be singing along to American Pie and The Monkees and loving it.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 04:03 PM

Actually, I'm already getting requests for Beatles's songs, John Denver, Peter Paul & Mary, Kingston Trio, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles, etc., in some nursing homes and especially in assisted living communities.


As to doing songs "from their youth" or "their era," it's important to remember two points:
1.   What's important is when the songs were popular (or when the residents would have learned them), not necessarily when the songs were written or first recorded.

E.g., many "cowboy" songs and "golden oldies" that were written in the 19th C. became popular in the US and elsewhere in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.   (Home On The Range, Red River Valley, O Susannah, Swanee River, and some popular hymns fall into this category.)

2. Often it's the songs that were popular in these residents' PARENTS' youth that they remember best. That's because they heard and absorbed these songs as young children.

E.g., "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," "Bill Bailey," "Daisy Bell," and "Shine On, Harvest Moon" were all written and popularized before 1910 but well known by people who were born between 1930 and 1960.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 04:19 PM

Virginia Tam,
I don't know how it is in the UK, but in the US - most states anyway - nursing homes do have an "activities" budget (mandated by law for licensing in some states) which is used to pay for everything from Bingo prizes to pet therapy to group music sessions to room-to-room music visits.    Most nursing homes I've contacted do hire some paid musicians, in addition to having music provided free by staff, family members, outside entertainers and even some residents when available.

Some low-budget facilities do book volunteers only, but I've often been told by activity directors that this often leads to entertainer no-shows ("Hey, I'm doing it free, so it's no big deal if I have to cancel last minute.) and/or some sub-par music providers.
I know quite a few musicians who do volunteer at nursing homes, but most of them play/sing only what's already in their repertoire rather than developing playlists geared to the needs and tastes of the nursing home residents. And even when the volunteers are excellent musicians and do great programs, they are often not available very often, especially on a weekday during normal "business hours."
This is why many activity directors choose not to rely on volunteers.

Providing music to nursing homes on a regular basis can be fairly costly in terms of materials, travel expenses, etc.   And if you don't do it as a business, in the US you cannot count any of your costs as "charitable donations" for income tax purposes.   Not a big issue if you just occasionally do volunteer ("hobby") music and don't travel far to do it, but if you make a regular thing of it, there's a real advantage to doing it as a business even if you don't charge very much.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 04:45 PM

I've played at nursing homes for dementia and physically impaired residents many times with my husband. I also spent quite a bit of time visiting my mother who was in a nursing home for 2 years, so I also heard a lot of what other musicians were doing.

We played bluegrass and old folk songs. Most people had never heard any of the songs, but they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the music and often joined in singing by the last chorus. We generally stuck to the lively, upbeat songs that got their toes and fingertips tapping, although we did occasionally throw in a waltz or two (which put a few to sleep).

My point is that they were thrilled at hearing something different, in our experience. They had many performers coming in regularly who played the same old familiar tunes and songs from their youth, and I heard several residents complain about the "same old songs" that so-and-so always sang. Think about how their daily routine is fairly bland, and how much a new song or a new entertainer would brighten that day.

Many of the patients were even enthralled watching us set up and break down. Something they don't get to see every day, with new faces, new equipment and new procedures to look at. By the way, we always set up a small PA to boost the sound a bit, since most of them had hearing deficiencies to some extent, being generally older.

Don't limit yourself to certain periods. Do what you do best and do it with energy and affection, and I'm sure you will reach the residents. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 11:52 PM

You're right, Barbara, that dementia patients can relate to and be involved with music on several levels.   For instrumental music it seems to matter less how "familiar" the music is than how engaging it is -- melody, beat, tempo, mood, etc.

And if people are engaged by way of dancing or playing rhythm instruments or learning simple, repetitive refrains or even humming along, music that's not "old & familiar" to them can work just fine.

As for people getting tired of "the same old songs," I find that is much more common in assisted living and (especially) independent living communities than in memory care units. This is not to say that advanced dementia patients don't respond to new or less familiar music. It's just to say that when dementia (short-term memory) is fairly advanced -- you know, when the person tells the same story over and over several times a day -- people almost never get "tired of" hearing the same joke or story or song over and over. (This is at once a blessing and a curse.)

The point is to know your audience. "Dementia" covers a pretty broad range of cognitive impairment, and it's not uncommon to have quite a range within a given audience.

My suggestion is to try out various songs, old and newer, familiar and less familiar, and make careful note of how people respond.   
As I said above, if I tell a joke or sing a silly song and get 2 out of 20 residents breaking into a grin or laughing out loud, I consider that a success even if the others don't seem to "get" the humor. But if only 10% of my audience seems to be responding to the music, something needs to change.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 11:57 PM

BTW, Barbara, you bring up an important issue:

Nursing homes and rehab centers often have a mix of the cognitively impaired and the physically impaired (some of whose impairments are temporary, as with rehab following a broken neck or knee surgery). The same goes for assisted living facilities, whose populations include people with short-term memory deficits and others with no cognitive impairment but who need help with bathing or dressing for physical reasons.

This can pose real challenges, since the needs and expectations of the various residents can be quite diverse.

I think this sort of diversity within an audience is probably greater than what musicians find in a typical concert or pub or folk festival.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 05:17 AM

I have a problem with people and labels but some exprience of dealing with those with the dementia label.

FWIW my advice would be to look back to all the audiences that you have ever performed to and imagine say 10% of those audiences had big labels hung around their necks, saying DEMENTIA PATIENT.

Then perform to your new audience, in exactly the same way.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 05:39 AM

When your time comes, even if you don't develop dementia, trust me: you'll be singing along to American Pie and The Monkees and loving it.

Whether you want to or not, eh? I guess that's what I fear most - the inevitable loss of dignity by which our souls will be eventually crushed at the hands of entertainers in an old folks homes.

And it IS a matter of specific recordings, because they carry the key to our entire cultural identity. Singing live just doesn't carry the same significance; it's reductive and utterly bogus. I just hope it isn't compulsory - it sounds like hell on earth.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 06:12 AM

Recorded music can be very effective as part of a recreational or music therapy program for dementia patients, especially if it's actually incorporated into a session led by someone who helps involve people in singing along, dancing, using rhythm instruments and/or talking about the songs and their history.

But this sort of thing does not require the facilitator to be a musician or entertainer at all. I thought this thread was more about suggestions for a singer/poet/storyteller who's involved in working with dementia patients for "Storytelling Week."   Northerner could do a program using recorded music as part of storytelling, but I gather the aim was to use his (her?) own musical skills as part of the program too.

As for singing live being "utterly bogus" and "reductive," that perspective misses the point of live singing, especially group singing. A live singer tends to involve the group more actively than recorded music, plus the act of singing per se has many healthful benefits and singing together with other people has even more.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: banjoman
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 06:24 AM

I agree that some recorded music is valuable in these situations. We have a small collection of old wind up gramophones and sometimes take one with us along with a box of old 78's. Its great the way people want to get involved and ask about the equipment. Where possible we ask for requests.
Most popular are the Dance bands of the 30's and George Formby most of which we have in our own collection.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 07:13 AM

As for singing live being "utterly bogus" and "reductive," that perspective misses the point of live singing, especially group singing. A live singer tends to involve the group more actively than recorded music, plus the act of singing per se has many healthful benefits and singing together with other people has even more.

(Shudders in deep dread of the horrors to come).

Storytelling with kids is one thing; with adults its quite another, and with our elderly Mothers and Fathers it's a privilege beyond knowing. In such situations I've always found the best thing to do is to listen because what they have is real...


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 07:24 AM

PS - Getting back to specific recordings; if in my nostalgic dotage I want to bask in The Revealing Science of God or Jawbone and the Air Rifle or Dead Souls or Prince Rupert Awakes or For Richard or Wurdah Itah I'd rather have the original recording than some well-meaning volunteer with a guitar giving it their best shot. Same goes for Ivor Cutler and Jim Eldon songs, or Folk Songs as a whole - just upload my field recorded archives onto an iPod and press repeat play & I'll be as happy as Larry. Actually, I might as well start doing this now so I may politely decline the offer of having what remains of my precious brain cells 30 years hence beaten into submission by American fecking Pie. There are, it seems, some things a good deal worse than death, or the firely torments of Hell - at least there you be guaranteed to get some good music...


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 09:51 AM

Genie, you're right, the "same old songs" comments came from people with mild cognitive impairment. As for new songs, I remember the tremendous reaction we used to get doing our bluegrass at an Alzheimer's unit. Some people literally woke up and began to dance. Some sang the songs with us, songs they had never heard before, singing a millisecond behind us with intense enjoyment.

However, an old song that had been important to my mother-in-law was the only thing to rouse her from several days of stupor lying in bed (advanced Alzheimer's). At the end of the song she looked at us both and said, "Thank you. That was great." Hadn't spoken in months before that.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 11:33 AM

Thank you all for your comments. I've found them most helpful. I'm going to add some monologues next to what I offer. I don't need many so that's quite simple to do. My late sister and I used to recite monologues to each other. Then I will work on the songs. I would prefer to do my own singing where possible, though I might use some sound effect recordings. This was my first nursing home gig, so I want to improve so that I can do more. I got some lovely feedback so I will definitely try to get bookings in other homes. Here is what the nurse said:

"Diane provided our dementia residents with a calming, nostalgic and stimulating afternoon, that was enjoyed by all. She picked fresh rosemary, lavender and sage from her garden, and even provided old sweets, including liqourish twigs that really made for an intresting topic and helped stimulate memories for our residents. She told us of folk tales, and read us her poetry. It was a lovely afternoon."

I feel very emotional about such lovely comments.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Beer
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 12:59 PM

Could say a lot but short on time.
Started playing in a Psychiatric Hospital 1967 and 45 years later still playing(now only once a month.)but in a different (yet the same in many ways.)setting. Bottom line, try and sing/play songs of their era.
Adrien


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 03:17 PM

Our church choir has been singing at nursing homes for a number of years. We started doing carols at Christmas, and more recently we've done patriotic songs at the Fourth of July. We have a very good pianist, and I'm the emcee and director. I make a practice of never talking down to my audience, be they children or the elderly or whoever, and that usually works very well for me.

We went to a new "memory care" (dementia) center this Christmas, and we were very well-received. I was asked to come back and sing with the residents, so I tried that once before Christmas. It wasn't as successful as I hoped, so I think I need to try a variety of approaches. What I did before Christmas, was sit in a circle with five or six residents, and sing through a number of pop songs from the thirties and forties. There was one woman in a wheelchair who held her baby doll and sang along on every song, but most of the others did not seem to respond. A friend who sings for dementia patients says she has better luck with children's songs, but I thought that singing to them as children might be demeaning. I'm going to have to experiment to get the right mix, I think.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,roderick warner
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 03:19 PM

I'm 65 - if I get to the dementia phase - shoot me or play me some Coltrane/Charles Gayle - skip the cute stories, prissy well-meaning folk songs and the rest of it. My mother had dementia, died a couple of years back at the age of 84 and would rather have had jazz, Frank Sinatra and a lot of rock and roll given the choice. I doubt that she was unique.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 04:32 PM

Well, Roderick, as I said above, my one attempt at jazz didn't work all that well. I have had pretty good luck singing "familiar" songs in nursing home - the ones kids sing in school, as opposed to pop songs people learn later in life.

I think that the interaction between a live singer and an audience, if far better for elderly audiences than recorded music could be - but it has to be real communication, not "talking down" to an audience.

One of my friends from the San Francisco Folk Music Club was in a nursing home for a couple of years, so a number of us would go to the nursing home to sing for him every couple of months. The staff gathered twenty or more residents in the community room, and we sang mostly well-known folk songs. We had about eight performers, all fairly accomplished musicians. We always had a good response from the residents, and many sang along.

I think the secret is to have real communication, nothing paternalistic or condescending. As in any performance, if you don't make a connection with your audience, you've failed. And if you can't make that connection, then they'd be better off listening to recorded music.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 02 Feb 12 - 04:48 PM

Got caught up in the spin-off thread, but what I was trying to say there was nicely summed up by Joe's comment above:

I think that the interaction between a live singer and an audience, is far better for elderly audiences than recorded music could be ….



DC


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 03 Feb 12 - 10:36 AM

Thank you all for your thoughts. I think I will just have to do a little voluntary work in these settings and try stuff out and figure out what songs go down best. My late sister was a Rolling Stones fan - maybe I should be learning "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"??


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Feb 12 - 11:39 AM

Towards the end of the great British institution that was Sing Something Simple, the late, great Cliff Adams (no doubt under the thrall of Jack Emblow) effected the most sublime easy-listening deconstruction of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction imaginable. It was dreary middle-England claiming its own culture by reducing it to a terminal torpor by way of genuine subversion. Perfect in one sense; in another, maybe less so.

Now there's an idea for a thread - 5 Favourite Cliff Adams Singers Songs...

I once did some storytelling in an old folks home which forcussed on the attentions of one old dear who burst into tears at the sight of me, saying I look just like her husband who was lost in the war. We became quite friends over the afternoon and she gave me a lot of choice anedotage the like of which would shame even Roy Chubby Brown (needless to say mot of it is still in my repertoir). After the session one of the nurses said "Don't think you're so special - she does the same trick with every man that comes in here - and you all fall for it!"


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 03 Feb 12 - 07:44 PM

Great story, S.A. -- love it!

I've been waiting to see if Big Al Whittle would contribute to this thread, 'cos he's done a lot of singing in centres for older folks and is a real pro. He was kind enough to invite me along on one of these gigs (so I could see if it was something I thought I might do) and it was a pleasure to watch/listen to him.

One thing he did particularly impressed me: he made physical contact with every single resident in the room. He set some peppy music playing (I think it was a well-known old song over here, tho I've never heard it before or since; it may have been called "Hello!" -- certainly repeated that word many times), then went 'round the room shaking hands with the men and (or kissing the) women. He did this in a genuinely friendly, unaffected way (not patronising, or like he was doing them a favour). They all seemed (to me) surprisingly eager to make this contact with Al, and it occurred to me that physical contact might be something these folks didn't get much of anymore.

Anyway, I made a mental note to remember that well if I ever decided to do such a thing myself, and I believe it's worth passing along...

Good luck to you, Northerner, and my admiration goes to you, Genie, Big Al, Joe, 999, and all others who share their gifts in this way. As I see it, it's a way of lifting the spirits of a significant number of people, and making the world a bit better to be in, and I respect them for it.

S.A. -- if that's your idea of hell, then if/when you're in the nursing home, just don't attend. I'm sure there are enough folks who do enjoy their efforts to make it worth doing.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 05:02 AM

Yorkshire Yankee, you made a great point about having physical contact with every single resident in the room. I didn't think of this at first, but the woman who set up our gigs has a lot of nursing home experience. She insisted that we take the time to greet each person, and I've done it ever since. It makes a world of difference - but it's very important that nobody is missed when you go out and greet people. I've seen residents in tears if singers pass them by.

I'd like to see Big Al Whittle work a nursing home. I'm sure he's just grand!

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,999
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 07:34 AM

Most places with competent staff know when people living in a care facility don't care for something. Some folks would have their sight restored and bitch because the wall's painted a shade of green they don't like.

Song about it by Bill Staines--one great writer, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: tonyteach1
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 01:12 PM

The great thing is not to patronise or generalise Most people born in the 1930s would be mid 70s to mid 80s Would have been in their 20s and 30s when rock - took off in the 50s and 60s May have spent their life listening to classical music or swing or jazz or gone to folk clubs
may be an ex performer

Find out what people like - having communication with people is fine. When I did the homes I would find out if there were any birthdays or anniversaries and sing a song to them personally and would talk to them about the music Also put in a few racy gags. I did this at one place and a very old gent got up and told evern ruder material to great applause. We spent a nice hour swapping dirty gags


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 01:24 PM

I visit an old friend from time to time, she's in a home. It makes me livid that the carers put very loud modern pop music on, the latest numbers (because they like it) and the old folk don't relate to it at all. It's booming out in all the public sitting rooms. It makes me twitch, and I don't have to sit there day after day!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,999
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 01:27 PM

Good observations, Tony. I think too many people have the mind set that if you're in a nursing home that all of a sudden you become pious, wise and 24/7/365 polite and politically correct. Just ain't so, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 01:36 PM

Eliza, It's very disappointing & upsetting to hear that staff don't have the consideration to try to (at the very least) listen to something that won't make the residents uncomfortable/unhappy.

Worse, I suspect that is far from being a one-off...


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 04 Feb 12 - 02:41 PM

Well, I know it's a difficult and demanding job at times, being a carer in an old folks' home, and the young people who do so must find the pop music keeps their spirits up. But it's different for the residents, they deserve to hear music they generally like and know, and not at a volume enough to waken the dead!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Flash Company
Date: 05 Feb 12 - 10:45 AM

Hi Northerner, as a fellow northerner here is someone who appears to have some experience of assisting Alzheimers sufferers and helpers musically. An outfit called 'The Music Place' contact lucy@themusicplace.co.uk, run a choir for such. Choir is organised by Clare Morrell at The Cinnamon Club in Bowdon. Clare is a nice lady and can probably give you quite a few tips on what has been well received.

FC


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Northerner
Date: 06 Feb 12 - 09:41 AM

Thank you all for your comments. I'll certainly think now to ask the staff beforehand if there are any birthdays coming up.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Feb 12 - 12:25 PM

"the young people who do so must find the pop music keeps their spirits up"

It's kind of you to think so Eliza, but always when I comment to a worker that the music is bothersome, the reply is "Oh, I don't even hear it!" And I believe them. Waiters, managers, etc are so busy and distracted that the music doesn't even register on their consciousness. I'm sure it applies to caregivers too.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting at a table and can hardly hear my husband talking to me.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 06 Feb 12 - 12:59 PM

I think I'm a bit over-sensitive to noise, especially noisy music in restaurants and cafes etc. It makes me twitch. My husband has fallen in love with MacDonald's, so we go about once a month for him to indulge. But they play the most ghastly music at full belt, and there are always dozens of badly-behaved children galloping about shrieking. He munches through his quarterpounder thing, I just have a horrid paper cup of hot tea and grit my teeth!


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: Genie
Date: 18 Feb 12 - 10:54 PM

S.A., I really do understand and empathize with your musical tastes and aversions. But when a nursing home or other sort of facility hires someone for music as entertainment and/or as therapy, they are focusing on the residents as a group. It's seldom possible to please everyone equally.

In my work in rehab centers, small group homes, nursing homes, memory care facilities, and even assisted and independent living communities, it's not all that unusual to find some resident who requests something such as "The Blue Danube Waltz," "The William Tell Overture," "big band music," or even "Stevie Ray Vaughn."   I.e., sometimes people request songs that not only aren't in my repertoire but are such that I couldn't possibly approximate the sound(s) they're looking for if it tried.   
It's absurd to expect every musician who comes in to play and/or sing to be all things to all people. Your task is to find that intersection of what you do well and what most, or at least many, of the residents will respond to.


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Subject: RE: Entertaining dementia patients
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 15 - 06:01 PM

I do oldies and I like to tell little stories about the songs. Who was the original artist, what year it came out. Odd facts about stuff like that. They like that kind of stuff rather than just playing one song after another. After all, you are "in Concert" in this type of venue. It isn't a dance or a bar scene. People are just sitting there and listening to you. I kind of like that.


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