Mountbatten music therapy sessions, for people living with dementia, are supporting Islanders like Doreen Sands to reconnect with the world.

Doreen has been attending the weekly music sessions for 18 months, led by Mountbatten music therapist Fraser Simpson. Her partner Jeff Reid said:  “Doreen has always loved meeting people. She is a sociable person and has always enjoyed singing and dancing. Since developing dementia however her life has become withdrawn. Communication is difficult, she can’t get her feelings across and she is increasingly living in a world of her own and experiences a lot of anxiety.

“When she comes to music therapy on a Wednesday, Doreen immediately relaxes as soon as the session starts. As Fraser plays familiar tunes such as old show songs Doreen loves to join in singing, banging and rattling the instruments. She finds the world a confusing place now, but music gets through and works wonders,” he added.

For people living with dementia, music can form a key ingredient of their quality of life. The national campaign Music for Dementia 2020 aims to make music available for everyone living with dementia by 2020.

Mountbatten’s music therapy group, held on Wednesday afternoons, is provided in partnership with national music therapy charity Nordoff and Robbins. It offers people with dementia the chance to make music, playing and singing with others.

Fraser Simpson, music therapist at Mountbatten said: “Music is good for body, mind and soul. Singing or playing music is great physical exercise, science shows that it’s good for the brain, and it uplifts us. It’s wholesome in every sense of the word, it’s enjoyable, and brings people together socially. Isolation and anxiety are two of the debilitating effects of dementia that music addresses directly. No previous musical experience is needed to access music therapy.

He said: “The music therapy group gives Doreen a means of reaching out to others, which has become impossible for her in almost every other way. There’s a lot of laughter. Doreen is often touched by the emotional warmth of some of the old love songs and her eyes well up with tears, whilst the more upbeat songs seem to bring back all the vitality of her younger years. In one memorable session, we began singing The Lambeth Walk and Doreen immediately got out of her chair and began to dance, going over to other group members and encouraging them to get involved.

“As well as familiar songs, I also use a lot of improvisation in the group, following the rhythms and tempos of the group members and this enables people to take charge and be creative with the music. Doreen will often seize the opportunity and lead the music off in new directions. It becomes a game – with a beaming smile she looks at me as we exchange phrases and get faster. In music, Doreen can become once again the fun-loving and social person that she used to be.”

The music therapy group runs on Wednesdays 3.00-4.00 pm. Carers are also welcome to attend, or take time out in the hospice café. For more information contact: Fraser Simpson on 07834 322316 or send an email.