Live Music Now (LMN) has announced details of an ambitious project studying the effects of music on older people, especially those living with dementias, and staff in five care homes across the UK.
The homes, in Penarth, Bath, Cheltenham, London and Whitstable, are supporting between 10 and 20 weeks of interactive and creative music sessions led by specially trained professional musicians. Outcomes will be evaluated to see whether the happiness of residents and members of staff has been improved. The project is also designed to enable staff to continue to bring more live music and music-making into the care homes after the project finishes.
Led by Live Music Now, Sound Sense and Canterbury Christ Church University, the project is based on growing evidence for the psychological, physical and social benefits of live music and singing for people who live and work in care. Research shows it can help with chronic respiratory illness, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, for example.
The other partners in the project are MHA and the Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT), who run the homes where the music activities are taking place, and the Centre for The Arts as Wellbeing at the University of Winchester, which is carrying out the evaluation.
Consortium leader, Evan Dawson, of Live Music Now said:
‘We are all living longer lives, which should be celebrated, rather than feared. Later life should still be a time of exploration, creativity and happiness, even whilst living with dementia. The evidence we have seen demonstrates that music is an incredibly effective tool to achieve this if it is done well. It needn’t be expensive and everyone can benefit including care staff and families. There’s nothing else like it.’
Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said:
‘Creativity and innovation are key ingredients in outstanding care homes and regular singing and live music activities can help care homes positively address all five key questions our inspectors ask of care homes. We already know about the power of music therapy for people with moderate to advanced dementia and the benefits that it brings. This project is a fantastic opportunity to understand what impact live music, with interactive and creative music-making, can have for both our residents and staff in improving overall levels of happiness within our homes.’
Liz Jones Head of Research, MHA, said:
‘This innovative project will help to extend our understanding of the impact of high-quality live music and singing activity upon the lives and wellbeing of those that live and work in care homes. In other OSJCT homes that have been fortunate to have similar projects, the impacts have been wide-ranging and at times profound, leaving a positive legacy for residents, their families and loved ones. Equally importantly, we have found that the benefits of this music-making activity, when carried on by committed carers and activity coordinators in the home, are cumulative. This could potentially be a key point of learning for a sector that can rarely afford to commission programmes of music-making, often making do instead with ‘one off’ live music sessions. These sessions enable individuals who have recently joined the homes to have a purpose and a voice and decrease their isolation, which is difficult to achieve using traditional approaches.’
Victoria Elliot, Principal Care Consultant, OSJCT, said:
‘The project is part of an ambitious national initiative, A Choir in Every Care Home, which was a finalist at the Royal Society of Public Health Awards 2017 and is funded by the Baring Foundation and the Libor fund. It has also created a set of free resources to inspire and support care homes to engage with music.’
Photo composite © Live Music Now, A Choir in Every Care Home