By Nicki Hayes

08th July 2020

Categorised in Good To Know

Caring for someone with dementia? Here are some good to know links to help you tune into the power of music … 

Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory … it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can. 

Oliver Sacks, neurologist

As a long-time Liverpool FC fan, I couldn’t help but put my Jerry & The Pacemakers You’ll Never Walk Alone single on my Dansette last night. The tears started rolling of course. Tears of joy, as we’d just won the premiership league for the first time in thirty years, but of sadness too, remembering the tragic events of 15 April 1989. 

How music has the power to reach beyond the disease of dementia

This morning, still emotional, I wondered why the simple act of listening to this song had ‘set me off on one’. Then I remembered the words of a loving carer, Peter, in my previous blog ‘How to care when you can’t be there’. Peter, reflecting on the nature of personhood, poignantly expressed that “Our brains are not all that we are. Our ‘personhood’ does not reside in a filing system: our personhood resides in our souls.”  

I remember thinking at the time how wise these words were and wondering whether this explained why music has the power to reach beyond the disease of dementia, something for which there is an increasing body of evidence. Then today, I came across a radio station that caused me to stop in my tracks: M4D Radio.  

Better write a blog, I thought. So, I have. 

What is M4D Radio? 

M4D stands for music for dementia. Part of the Music for Dementia campaign, M4D Radio makes music freely available to everyone living with dementia, all of the time, anywhere.  

Our ambition is to make music freely available and a part of everyone’s care plan. 

M4D Radio

By developing content in partnership with listeners, this innovative station is making sure people with dementia and their carers can listen to what they want and need when they want and need to. Their themed shows and era-specific stations are a direct result of collaborating carefully with carers like you.  

Go on, treat yourself to a listen

How does music help people with dementia? 

I won’t wax lyrical (sorry, couldn’t resist J) about how music helps to make some of the symptoms of dementia (agitation, anxiety and apathy as examples) more manageable. As powerful as words are, pictures do a better job. Take a look at this short but powerful film from Beatie Wolf and The Utley Foundation

I won’t speculate either about the important role of music throughout our lives, the fact that as a species we even respond to it in the womb, or that its role can be both passive and active. 

Neither will I share any further personal lived experiences of how, when there is a personal connection, music can take us back to past experiences, but feel free to share yours in The Pod.  

What I will do is share some useful, good to know links.  

And, if you want to get a little more academic about it: 

  • Music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia, van der Steen JT, Smaling HJA, van der Wouden JC, Bruinsma MS, Scholten RJPM, Vink AC. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003477. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003477.pub4 

Before I sign off though, as I wipe away another tear, how can I not share this spine-tinglingly accurately observed piece of music from another Liverpool FC fan, Elvis Costello (from his 1989 album Spike, co-written with yet another Liverpool legend, Sir Paul McCartney).  

This video comes with a warning: tissues may be required …