Music is also proven to reduce levels of depression and anxiety,relieve pain and breakdown social and cultural barriers.
In hospitals and community healthcare settings listening to Iive music – and joining in – can improve the emotional wellbeing of patients.
Jess Ingham is Area Director for Music in Hospitals & Care, which works with 150 musicians at hospitals across the North
West, including in dementia wards at Mersey Care’s Mossley Hill Hospital.
Musicians stay to chat afterwards, allowing people to express how the music has made them feel, or the memories it has evoked. Jess says music is particularly powerful for dementia patients, helping them to focus, reminisce and engage with others.
“It really is wonderful to see the impact a song like ‘Danny Boy’, that everyone knows, has on people.” Caoimhe Daly, Occupational Therapist at Acorn Ward agrees. “We’ve found during and after concerts that patients’ agitation levels appear to reduce significantly and there is an overall calming feeling on the ward.”
Jess also sees how live music helps communication between health and medical staff and patients. It simply brings everybody together.
Mersey Care Senior Recovery Learning Facilitator Iain Till has seen ‘profound and significant’ improvements in the wellbeing of some of the people taking part in music appreciation courses he runs at The Life Rooms.
“It’s fantastic to watch someone’s confidence grow. It builds self-esteem, helps to control anxiety and stops people
feeling isolated because they’re part of something, it’s an entertaining distraction,” says singer songwriter Iain.
His 10 week ukulele course has not only proved popular, it’s also changing lives.
“The ukulele is a tactile instrument and pretty easy to get around. Many people are embarrassed when they first start, but they soon overcome that and improve steadily over the weeks. It’s good to see everyone coming together and playing as a team.”
He says the course has also led to new friendships. “It is a totally bonding experience.”
Charlotte plays the ukulele. Quite well actually. She’s sometimes asked to lead the uke group at Southport Life Rooms. It doesn’t faze her.
Yet six months ago even speaking to new people would have crushed the 34 year old. She’d suffered depression and lack of confidence since childhood and found it hard to give her trust.
Teachers did their best but she struggled through school and college. “I couldn’t open up to anyone. I put on a
brave face and told people what I thought they wanted to hear, but I was in a bad place.”
She walked past The Life Rooms many times, until her uncle suggested she went in. “I wanted help, I wanted a better future, but I couldn’t even speak when I first went. I was a nervous wreck.”
Supported by Recovery College Manager Jackie Pearson, Charlotte gradually began to take part in courses and activities,
including a beginners ukulele group. She flourished. “I realised other people there were in the same boat. It lifted my mood. I started to have more up days than down days.”
But it was when tutor Iain Till was looking for someone to lead the group in his absence that Charlotte came into her own.
She is now a volunteer, helping other people make the same journey she did…and hitting the same high note.
“I was so scared but I thought ‘why not?’ Two years ago I couldn’t speak, now I’m teaching people. I feel really good.”