RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Proving the power of personalised music can reach those with dementia

30th October 2014 Print

The power of personalised music can bring significant benefits to the hundreds of thousands of people living with dementia.

That’s according to a new training and research project by JoCo Learning & Development, the team behind ‘Soundtrack to My Life’ a personalised music toolkit, which won an Innovation Care Award in 2012, and was shortlisted for Outstanding Dementia Care Product in 2013.

Over 830,000 people in the UK have dementia and around one in three of us have a close friend or family member with the condition.

There is no cure for the disease and the number of people living with dementia is expected to double over the next 30 years. Dementia care costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, that is more than cancer and heart disease combined.

John Osborne, managing director of JoCo Learning and Development, says personalised music can help those with dementia connect to their past and those around them, and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

John, a qualified social worker and musician, worked in social care for over 30 years and ran his own care company. He also cared for his own father for eight years before he died from the disease.

He said: “I was inspired by my own experiences to see how we could help improve the quality of life for those living with dementia. With this in mind I created the Soundtrack to My Life toolkit to help people put together music of significance to them that can travel with them on their dementia journey. The Soundtrack to My Life toolkit not only enables people to document music that is important to them but also the stories and memories that give the music meaning.

John added: “Neurological research shows that music memory is stored differently and for longer than other memories and Soundtrack harnesses that power to bridge to memories that may be lost in dementia and helps people stay connected. It’s important to understand that people with dementia don’t lose the ability to communicate – we lose the ability to understand.”

“It’s not just about playing songs we think people like over and over again. It’s about being person-centred and finding those tunes that really strike the right note with the listener, and you can only do this by finding out their life histories.”

The training and research project was conducted in partnership with JackDawe, the Nottingham City Council Dementia Specialist Team and with funding from Skills for Care. Nottingham University’s Institute of Mental Health helped to investigate the effects JoCo’s Soundtrack to My Life tool can have on those citizens living with dementia.

The research showed that using the Soundtrack to My Life toolkit can deliver real benefits and comments by those carers who took part in the study included:

“It reopened a window to the past and brought back good memories about loved ones and family. Seeing these new emotions was seeing the person they once used to be.”

Another commented on his work with one citizen: “I have seen him become very uplifted and more animated when his music is played” and one staff member said Soundtrack “empowers citizens and gets teams seeing the person rather than the disease.”

JoCo offers the only music in care training program open to all levels of frontline healthcare, social care, ancillary staff and managers to help them gain the skills to use the toolkits, understand the therapeutic value and have the confidence to add it to their person-centred care approach.

John explains that the use of personalised music in dementia care and all other care settings is JoCo’s mission: “Implementation is never without its challenges, however as an organisation we will continue to lead training and research projects around personalised music in care.

“One of the factors that drives me is that most musical activities that people currently have access to are one-offs, weekly or monthly activities that happen as and when resources are available. We don’t think that’s good enough.

“Soundtrack is personalised music that belongs to the individual, and we are using technology to make it portable and accessible whenever it is wanted or needed.”

Nottingham City Council is now funding a second wave of training with money from the communities’ budget. Cllr Eunice Campbell, Nottingham City Council’s Older Person’s Champion, said: “Dementia has a profound effect on both those who have been diagnosed and their carers. Anything that can help mitigate the symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s is precious and I am very much looking forward to awarding these new qualifications.”

For more information on JoCo and Soundtrack to My Life visit