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Music Is Key To Helping People With Dementia At Abbotswood Court

The Commission on Dementia and Music reports on the benefits of music for those living with the disease. Abbotswood Court Care Home in Romsey explains how they use music to improve the quality of life for their residents.

A recent report from the Commission on Dementia and Music found substantial evidence of the benefits of music for people living with dementia. It helps minimise some of the symptoms such as agitation and depression and increases social interaction. Yet, only 5% of Care Homes are using music effectively. Abbotswood Court Care Home in Romsey is one of them.

Gemma Ridout-Bowden, General Manager of Abbotswood, said:

“Music is an important part of life here at Abbotswood Court. We’ve been aware for a long time of the benefits of music for our residents. Music is able to reach people in a unique way, forming an emotional connection that has a profound effect on the individual and their loved ones. We really welcome this report and its call for a national strategy to increase access to music for all those living with dementia.’

One of the activities that takes place regularly at Abbotswood Court is ‘Unlocking Musical Memories’ – a pioneering programme run by Andrew Knights, former principal Oboist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. ‘Music Unlocking Memories’ aims to stimulate memory and elicit a response through a variety of music: songs from the 1940s – 1960s, and solos played on oboe, cor anglais and saxophone. The emphasis is on fun and participation. Using a vast range of percussive instruments and song sheets, Andrew soon has everyone joining in!

Andrew started working in residential and nursing homes in 2001 at the invitation of Hampshire County Council. He now does about 250 sessions a year, many through the Alzheimers Society. Andrew has been a regular guest principal with many London Orchestras, the Hilliard Ensemble and many chamber ensembles and also teaches at Southampton University. However, he is most passionate about his musical collaborations with people with dementia.

Andrew explains:

“Music Unlocking Memories’ has taught me to rethink my whole approach to music – it’s one of the most exciting, inspiring and satisfying things I’ve ever done. It’s a real privilege to work at somewhere like Abbotswood Court – such a lovely environment – and the residents and carers are remarkable. I always look forward to my visits!”

Sarah Watson Dementia Manager at Abbotswood Court added:

“It’s so good to see this focus on the benefits of music for those with dementia. We organise many musical activities for our residents – social events, concerts, our weekly fitness class Oomph Activity to Music and of course Andrew’s sessions. It’s extraordinary how some of our residents can remember all the words to a song or recall people and events they associate with a piece of music.”

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