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“The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication." - Oliver Sacks, ” Awakenings

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Berthold Auerbach

Background History

The Power of Music (North West) CIC is based in West Lancashire. With over 25 years experience working in health and social care the founder of Power of Music Jacqui Sutton MSC, BA has worked in both the statutory sector and the third sector giving Jacqui a valuable insight into the challenges of people and their families living with long term conditions such as dementia. From 2009 until 2015 Jacqui worked for Lancashire County Council in her role as a Commissioner with the lead for dementia and long term conditions for Central Lancashire. To follow her passion for music and the difference music can make to people’s lives Jacqui left her role as a Commissioner to develop Power of Music. Jacqui is also the founder of Skylarks Community Choir Network (CIC).

How did Power of Music begin?

As a saxophonist I play regularly in a saxophone quartet often playing in residential and day care settings. After one performance as I packing away my instrument a young care worker came and spoke to me. She was very emotional and explained that she had been caring for an elderly lady with advanced dementia for the last six months. During that time Elsie had appeared disengaged and “locked into herself” despite Gemma’s attempts there had been no verbal communication between them. Whilst the quartet was performing Gemma had noticed that Elsie had started to rock and move her fingers to the rhythm of the music. By the end of our performance Elsie was humming and mouthing the occasional word. This was the most animated behaviour Gemma had seen from Elsie. This was the beginning of my fascination of music and the power it has on the mind. I began observing more and more as we performed and I would regularly talk to family members and care workers to discover any further evidence of the power of music.

What Do We Deliver

There are many ways we can engage in music playing a musical instrument, listening to music, playing in a band, orchestra or quartet or through singing either individually or being part of a choir. These are all ways we can be part of the community and connect with others. Music has the power to create different emotions and moods within us and can stir memories and experiences. Music can facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing. Music encourages communication, self-awareness and an awareness of others. The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kick-start the grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot. 'We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life,' (Professor Paul Robertson a concert violinist and academic who has made a study of music in dementia care) (Age UK 2015). Dementia is rapidly becoming the health and social care challenge of the 21st century. Numbers affected are set to soar because of an expanding older population. The total number of people with dementia in the UK is predicted to be in excess of 1m by 2021. So, while there are no long-term cures, ways of alleviating symptoms are becoming more available and accessible (Age UK 2015). Power of Music through music therapy, singing and sharing music deliver planned sessions that incorporate peer support and social interaction. Our music sessions are designed to help people and their families living with a long term condition such as dementia. Meeting people and sharing music on a regular basis encourages peer support creating important networking where people come together to share their experiences.


Working together

Expert Information/Training

We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory’ (Professor Paul Robertson cited by Age UK 2015). If you are an organisation working with people and their families living with long term health conditions or as a provider for residential or day care and you want expert training and information on the benefits of working with music Power of Music can help. We can work with you to deliver a planned music or singing session that has been designed to “unlock memories”, aid respiratory conditions or help with stress, depression or anxiety. Our aim is to help and support people who can be isolated and disempowered as a result of the advanced stage of their dementia and other long term health conditions. Musicians trained and with experience will work alongside individuals or small groups of people with dementia and their carers to encourage and develop communication. These musical and personal interactions identify and build upon areas still intact in a person suffering the losses associated with the later stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – memory, physical capacities, personality changes and accompanying loss of identity. Power of Music can deliver a training programme designed to work with care staff working to develop their understanding of the emotional needs of people with dementia in the context of a person-centred approach to dementia care.


Music Therapy Groups

Many treatments of dementia and other long term conditions such as Parkinson, mental health such as depression and anxiety, COPD stroke and heart failure depend on the person living with their long term condition and their ability to communicate verbally. When one is no longer able to speak or understand language, music therapy can offer alternative opportunities for communication.

People who are unable to speak any more are still able to hum or play along with music. Music therapy is defined by the World Federation of Music Therapy as the use of music and/or its musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) by a qualified music therapist, with a client or group, in a process designed to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilisation, expression, organisation and other relevant therapeutic objectives in order to meet physical, emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs (WFMT 2010).

People with dementia and other long term conditions, for whom spoken response and communication in general increasingly becomes problematic, have been shown externally, and through the work and research facilitated by organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, to be actively involved in vocal expression through singing, especially with well-known and familiar songs. This model can be used as a therapeutic tool, in accordance to research which have highlighted the wider benefits of such group activity that have been shown to enable families living with dementia to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones, share experiences and find support and inclusion. The model would be designed to help people with dementia and their families to feel part of society where they have a right to artistic and social stimulation (Alzheimer’s Society 2013).

“The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kickstart the grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot. We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life” (Professor Paul Robertson 2014).



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