Dementia: Singing for the Brain 

Singing for the Brain is a service provided by the Alzheimer's Society, which uses singing and other activities to bring together people with dementia or memory loss. A group of participants and their carers talk about the service's benefits.

Learn more about singing and dementia

Transcript of Dementia: Singing for the Brain

(piano music)

(woman) Singing for the Brain is for people with dementia or memory problems.

It's a social stimulating activity which helps people to make new friends,

to retain skills to become more confident and competent

and it makes them feel they have a community to belong to.

They're not alone.

We just look forward to Fridays.

There are weeks when it's... (groans) "There's not one this week."

I quite enjoy the half an hour before we start the singing

where you have the opportunity to talk to other carers

and the singing, really, is the bonus afterwards.

It's so light-hearted.

It's like I'm doing something when I'm very empty.

I look forward to it.

To be honest, I don't know what she actually gets out of it.

I just like it, you know.

I can't say anything else.

There is a remarkable preservation

of melody and the words of songs in the brain.

You've got rhythm in one side of the brain

and the memory for words in the other side of the brain.

The idea of remembering melody and emotion together

is very strongly protected.

It's not that a particular spot of damage is going to ruin it.

(David) I don't find that I can talk a great deal.

I just...

Even at home, I don't think I say very much.

Sometimes it comes back.

Sometimes he can't even remember that he's got a son and daughter.

(Chreanne) This is a wonderful thing for people with dementia

who cannot find the memory of a lot of things that are current in their lives

but they have this very strong sense of the words and the music.

She seems to recall the words to the songs which is great, you know.

She can't remember what happened two minutes ago,

but she remembers the songs.

(Chreanne) It's an empowerment for a lot of people.

A lot of people who have got so depressed that they've stopped speaking

really become quite voluble.

That is the most remarkable change.

The carers are so grateful

because that's been the hardest thing for them to bear,

the lack of communication between them.

It gives you so much fun and pleasure.

You can go back for the rest of the week,

even though we don't see anybody at home.

Here, it's a lovely hour of fun.

# Elbows, hips and baby, one, two, three

# Elbows, hips and baby, one...

(Doug) The whole package, I found it really beneficial.

When you're a carer 24/7,

you need that bit of respite and relaxation, really.

# If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands

# If you're happy and you know it, tap your knees

One of the things that makes it different from a sing-song

is that we do choose to sing some uncomfortable songs.

We choose to sing things that talk about difficulties.

# Just clap

# If you're feeling sad

# Keep it steady

# Don't hurry

# And you won't have time to worry

There are lots of songs that are chosen

that allow people to express, in a safe environment,

uncomfortable emotions which they really can't express to each other,

so it's done in song.

It is a little tension-valve release.

So that's very helpful.

# Just kiss

# If you're feeling sad

(Doug) I find it quite uplifting.

It's so light-hearted and refreshing, really.

We go home quite uplifted.

Some of the things she does go round and round in your head all week

until you come back.

I like to say, "Come and try it three times."

"The first time, you're going to be nervous."

"The second time you'll recognise people and feel a bit more comfortable."

"The third time, you can relax and enjoy it."

I think it's helping. Long may it continue.

I enjoy it. I don't know why.

Whatever it is, I just go along with what's happening

and I think it's great that I can do that

and I go along and do it.

And sometimes when we do that, we exchange hands.

I'll suddenly find her hand grabbing mine,

and I feel this is worth being here and that's it.

It's a big help.

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Practical information and advice for anyone who is looking after someone with dementia