A new initiative to help carers and those living with dementia

Singing favourite songs from the past can stimulate memory. Picture: Michael Gillen
Singing favourite songs from the past can stimulate memory. Picture: Michael Gillen

Living with dementia can often be a frightening and at times lonely experience not just for the sufferer but their carer too.

It can be upsetting seeing the impact dementia can have on a loved one while coming to terms with the diagnosis is a hard process for the person themselves.

However, a new initiative set up in the town hopes to improve the quality of life for those affected through the act of singing.

The Sunshine Singalong at St Michael’s Parish Church was set up towards the end of last year by Rev Cheryl McKellar-Young and runs every second Thursday of the month from noon to 3.30pm in the Kirk Hall.

The volunteers are helping people living with dementia rekindle memories, quite literally, through the sound of music.

Not being able to communicate properly, confusion and memory loss are just some of the symptoms which can affect a person with dementia.

A long-term cure isn’t yet available, however, research has shown that music can help make that connection with people which other forms of communication fails to do so.

Myra Lawson, who is part of the Sunshine Singalong organising committee, said: “We saw what fantastic impact the music had when we went up to St Michael’s Day Care there were people in their beds and in wheelchairs but as soon as we started singing we seen a change in their mood. Their fingers would start tapping, the hands moved to the beat and they would sing along.”

“That’s why we set up Sunshine Singalong. People living with dementia get a glow from singing and being part of the group.

“It gives them something to do and the participation is important. It gives the carers a break too.

“They are not having to look after the person every minute and they can talk and relate to other carers as well.”

The session starts off with a light finger lunch with sandwiches, sausage rolls and tray bakes offered along with tea and coffee. Greggs also provide an end-of-day donation each month.

Myra added: “The lunch beforehand helps everyone to integrate as they get a chance to talk to each other.”

The people who come along are met with reds and yellows which create a bright, warm and welcoming atmosphere. There is no charge for lunch but donations are welcome.

An hour of singing is followed with a variety of songs such as Scottish songs, songs from musicals, wartime songs and even The Beatles.

The audience is actively encouraged to participate and are backed by enthusiastic Sunshine Singers. The words are projected on the wall so they can join in and do the actions to the Hokey Cokey and One Finger One Thumb Kept Moving.

Myra said: “We have about 30 people come along but we have room for more.”

For further details contact the Church Office on 01506 842188.