The potential of music to bring joy to those living with dementia

Richard Trethewey is studying the MA Music Therapy course at USW.

"This video is an extract from my second-year Music Therapy MA placement in a Methodist Homes Association (MHA) dementia care home in Cornwall.

MHA is one of the leading employers of Music Therapists in the UK who work with clients individually and in groups to improve wellbeing and quality of later life.  

This clip shows my client Joyce and I singing a ‘hello song’ at the beginning of session six out of the twenty that we had together.

The previous week Joyce, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was very confused about living in the care home and was experiencing feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Because of this I felt I would introduce a hello song which had not previously been a feature of our sessions. I hoped it would enable Joyce to feel more grounded in our session and would reassure her of where we were and what we were doing.

Even as the hello song started, Joyce seemed somewhat distracted or in some way not fully present. As I sung her name for the second time, I watched her eyes lift and it felt as if something had changed within her. Joyce became very playful, articulate, and started to take risks musically.

By the end of the clip, Joyce had taken the lead in our music and was leading when we used words or ‘scat’ sounds together.

Joyce recognised that the dynamic level of our music had dropped and responded accordingly until we joined together in an improvised but very much attuned and empathic ending together.

This clip shows the potential of music to bring moments of joy to those living with dementia who may often feel isolated and anxious. By using music, Joyce was able to forge a new meaningful relationship and build confidence in trying new things at this late stage in her life."