“It’s quiet when you’ve got dementia,” says Mike Brookes, who has been living with vascular dementia for 10 years. In lockdown, life has been particularly isolating for Mike, who is a RAF veteran, and his wife Liz.
“It’s been devastating, lonely and terrifying” says Liz, who lives with Mike in Rochdale. “Normally, we are very busy with lots of activities but they just stopped dead in the pandemic. The impact on Mike was really negative. And it was hard for him to engage with things online.
“We’ve really missed live music, which transformed Mike.”
“Live music should be on prescription for people living with dementia”
Enjoying little moments
Liz and Mike used to go along to Music in Hospitals & Care’s specially-created live music experiences at Salford Institute for Dementia, part of the University of Salford. There, they took part in monthly live music experiences led by our professional musicians. The couple were also involved in research into the impact of live music on the wellbeing of people living with dementia. The research found that people living with dementia, who regularly experience live music, feel less isolated and have improved wellbeing and peer support.
“It was difficult to find something that engaged Mike but when we found the music café, it was good for us both,” says Liz. “The music brings a beaming smile to Mike’s face. It refreshes and renews. It keeps his brain active. For me, it’s respite. I can close my eyes and relax. If Mike is happy, I’m happy. We talk about it for days afterwards and enjoy those little moments again.”
Liz and Mike are looking forward to enjoying Music in Hospitals & Care live music again. In lockdown, Liz says Mike lost a lot of skills because he was used to being active and having a routine. So, even more than ever, they understand the importance of stimulation for people living with dementia.
Music evokes memories and emotion
Liz thinks live music should be on prescription for people living with dementia. “It’s an absolute wellbeing blast,” she says, “For people living with a dementia diagnosis, while thoughts can be difficult to form and process, emotions aren’t – and music evokes them.
“It plugs into a very deep and old part of the brain. As the emotions start to move, the memories return and people have something to talk about. Music really influences mood, and it can be soothing or energising, depending on what’s being played.
“I think it’s absolutely essential to be present with Music in Hospitals & Care live music because you get so much more from it than from a recording.”
It’s been tough keeping live music on pause for so long. It’s critical that we get #BackToLive so we can reach more children and adults through the healing power of live music to improve their health and wellbeing. Find out more about how you can help.