Advice and development

I learned that music is a great way to converse with dementia patients

In my second year of nurse training, I applied to become a dementia champion at the trust where I was completing most of my clinical placements.

In my second year of nurse training, I applied to become a dementia champion at the trust where I was completing most of my clinical placements.

After emailing the lead dementia specialist nurse to outline why I thought it was important that nursing students became involved in dementia care, I was accepted and completed the two-day, university-accredited course.

It involved learning techniques to help staff interact with people who have dementia, and I wanted to put my new knowledge into practice.

According to the Alzheimers Society, music is an effective form of therapy for people living with dementia, so I set up a musical memories group for these patients and their families. The lead dementia specialist nurse agreed to me trialling the group at the trust.

I wanted the group to be interactive and fun, so I chose songs that the patients would be familiar

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In my second year of nurse training, I applied to become a dementia champion at the trust where I was completing most of my clinical placements.

After emailing the lead dementia specialist nurse to outline why I thought it was important that nursing students became involved in dementia care, I was accepted and completed the two-day, university-accredited course.

It involved learning techniques to help staff interact with people who have dementia, and I wanted to put my new knowledge into practice.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, music is an effective form of therapy for people living with dementia, so I set up a musical memories group for these patients and their families. The lead dementia specialist nurse agreed to me trialling the group at the trust.

I wanted the group to be interactive and fun, so I chose songs that the patients would be familiar with and could sing along to, as well as others that they could learn using song sheets. All of the patients on the ward were asked if they wanted to take part and most agreed. I led the group, helped by four other nursing students, and local schools lent us musical instruments.

The group was held a week before Christmas and took place at visiting time so that relatives and carers could be involved. The songs we sang included White Christmas, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. We went around and sang to the patients who could not get out of bed so that they did not feel left out.

The group activities included a quiz in which the patients would give the name of the pictured singer, such as Frank Sinatra. Tea and cakes were offered to patients and their families during a break.

To evaluate the group, I used a simple tool with faces, such as smiley and sad, and a comments box. Participants were invited to tick the appropriate face to indicate how they were feeling and add a comment.

All the evaluations were positive. One patient wrote: ‘Thank you, you made me feel as though I have not been forgotten.’ Family members were greatly impressed, saying that they could not believe how much their relatives had interacted.

After the event, we appealed for donations of musical instruments that could be left on the ward. Patients now have access to new instruments that are used by ward staff in reminiscence therapy.

The music group improved the hospital experience of the patients with dementia, even if only for a short time, and brought joy to their families and carers.

This experience showed me that music is a simple yet effective tool that anyone can use to help them interact with people who have dementia, and that improving the patient experience does not have to be difficult – just a little thought and a patient-centred approach can yield really positive results.

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