Colin’s experience of music and dementia

September 24, 2019

Today is BBC Music Day, a UK-wide, annual celebration of the power of music to change lives, with events taking place all over the country around this year’s theme of music and wellbeing. We are supporting BBC Music Day by raising awareness of the benefits of music for people with dementia.

We were both church goers and we used to go to the choir together. Gladys absolutely loved her singing and every type of song going. We both really enjoyed the musicals. She sang all the time, especially to the children. She’d twist the words around to make them suitable for the children. Music was one of the things which truly sustained her after the diagnosis. It was the one thing that I knew would help her and myself through the time ahead.

Round about ten days before her death, I did a recording of her singing a lovely rendition of ‘Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Redeemer’. Even in the fog of dementia, music got through. I’d sit on her bed and we’d sing together.

It’s been said that singing for Gladys certainly helped her slow down the progression of the condition. You couldn’t have a conversation with Gladys but she could sing a song from start to finish. After being diagnosed, Gladys started singing a song that I can’t ever remember her singing in the 60 years of marriage we had. It was about the Belle Vue Speedway, a dirt track racing event – she brought every member of the speedway team into that song. I was astonished that she was able to pull that out of her memory banks.

Colin and Gladys

Following a diagnosis of dementia, my Admiral Nurse, Kellie, advised me that there was something about rhythm. She asked me one time what Gladys’ date of birth was and Gladys said very clearly ’18-10-34 (the date of her birth) shut your gob and say no more.’ Gladys would make rhymes like that up with her children. She couldn’t communicate but there was something in the rhythm which Kellie allowed me to see and tap into more. She knew how important music was to Gladys’ life and gave me the confidence to continue using music as a source of comfort and reconnection with Gladys.

Music therapy

Read our leaflet about how music and sound can be used to communicate and engage with people with dementia

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Dementia Helpline

The Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline is for anyone with a question or concern about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

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