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Tuesday, 06 February 2018 02:00

Fighting the ravages of dementia with music therapy

This is an inspiring story of dementia patients finding a way back to themselves through the wonder of music therapy and its stimulation of memories, buried deep in the brain.

2016 saw Edward Hardy, an advanced stage dementia sufferer of Somerset in the United Kingdom, reunited with his former jazz band mates after a 25 year hiatus.

Staff member of Somerset’s Mellifont Abbey Care Home and fellow musician, Sam Kinsella, reintroduced the wonders of music therapy to Edward after realising they shared a mutual love for music. As a former jazz pianist with over 30 years performing in his own jazz band, Edward was offered the chance by Sam to sit down at a piano and strike a chord.

A truly amazing story:

‘I remember the day Ed started playing again. He hesitated for about 30 seconds and then started playing some amazing tracks to a ridiculous standard. It's really amazing because even though he's got dementia - you can name a tune and he can just play it’, said Sam Kinsella.

Shortly after this, Sam set out on a mission to bring together a jazz band of sorts, allowing Ed the opportunity to once again perform to a live audience. An online ad was placed searching for jazz band mates, with over 80 musicians offering their talent.

Amazingly, Ed’s former band mates saw the ad and came forward to perform with him – the first time in over 20 years!

"He hadn’t played with the band for the last 20 or 30 years and couldn't really comprehend it until they actually came together but when they started playing together and talking about the old times - that's when it started coming back to him." – Sam Kinsella.

The story of Edward Hardy, an advanced-stage, 93-year old dementia patient just goes to show the true power of music and how it not only enriches the human spirit, but also the human brain.

Music and dementia

Over the past decade, music therapy has gradually developed into a legitimate form of therapy for dementia patients across the globe, with dramatic effect.

The power of music, whether it’s jazz, 60’s soul, operatic arias or bible hymns has proven to aid dramatically in memory recall and improve quality of life for many dementia patients.

Additionally, the power of singing has also been found to unlock memories and kick start grey matter. It would seem that this form of therapy is able to reach deep into the brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.

This therapy has proven that even if dementia sufferers can no longer communicate, they still have the faculty to reach down into themselves and draw out a small piece of who they once were through singing, whistling, clapping, dancing and the playing of an instrument.

Music therapy has become a proven avenue of access to the part of the brain which remains undamaged by the ravages of dementia, bringing hope and increased quality of life for all dementia patients, no matter their stage of the disease.

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