Lockdown and life since then have been difficult for everyone, but extra hard for those living at home with dementia. Distancing has often meant losing the support and stimulation of family and friends, and has brought greater isolation than ever.
Come Singing is a tiny voluntary organisation, previously providing 21 monthly free music or singing sessions in Norwich for people living with dementia in day centres, care homes, sheltered housing, general and specialist dementia hospitals, palliative care and three large community groups.
Peer support singing had been a lifeline for some, with chance to meet up and do something where dementia simply didn't matter for a while. But with Covid that all had to stop. Sadly it will be a while now before singing groups can meet again.
So, to keep our singing community together, Come Singing started an interactive newsletter (Keyhole - keep your hopes alive). There are musical quizzes, and chance for people to share pictures, news, their poems, to talk about what music means to them, and to build a wish list of songs we'd like to sing in the future. Sending the newsletter by email means that we can illustrate people's stories and link answers to the quizzes to recorded music on Youtube - people can access music and sing! However, as not everyone has a computer, Norfolk Community Foundation generously funded a good solid printer, enabling us to send out paper copies too. See our events for further details and to sign up to the newsletter!
We have also set up 'Come Singing by Skype' which has been useful for keeping in touch with locked-down care homes. Zoom and Skype aren't always ideal when one is living with dementia as tech and timing can be tricky. Sometimes sound and vision together on a small screen are too much input all at once, but with a large TV screen and a small group gathered in one place, suitably distanced, I can talk to people, see them coming and going, and play music (on the piano) to suit the moment and respond to whoever is around. See our events for more details.
For those who are not able to access our group care home sessions, we also set up 'Come Sining by Phone'. We've been keeping in touch by phone with many of our singers, and in some cases singing on the phone too. This may sound bizarre but can be huge fun as one cue for a song leads to another! It certainly breaks up the day and makes one glad to be alive.
Our most recent development is that the Norfolk Library Service has asked us to produce some short video clips of the sort of things we used to do at our big, much-loved Millennium Library singing sessions. We've asked our singers for their ideas and requests and 'Come Singing at Home' has been born! The first clip is now available on the Norfolk Library website and social media channels: anyone who needs cheering up or feels like a sing will be able to access it whenever they like. See our events for further details.
These may sound just small things but music has the power to lift your mood, take you away from the present moment and make you feel that you're not alone. Social contact makes a huge difference in dementia, and we must ensure that people who are living at home with dementia do not feel that they have been forgotten.
Don't forget to also check out our Music Mirrors digital application on the map. It is a digital tool that helps you create a brief life story in your own words, with sounds and music embedded to spark memories later. Not a playlist but a memory toolkit!