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Musically Empowered Conversations - week 1

Posted on 12 September 2017

Practical approaches to staying connected through music.

I am really excited to be part of the musical sequel to the Empowered Conversations course run by six Degrees.

Empowered Conversations is an approach to communication in dementia care that is designed to help people living with dementia and their carers to:

  • Find ways to stay connected
  • Handle emotional stress
  • Navigate the day together

The approach focuses on the practical features of communication that help to give people with dementia an invitation to respond.

The whole concept of an invitation to respond resonated with me as that is what my sister and I had instinctively practiced with my mother. We wouldn’t go asking her loads of questions that would just frustrate her, we would maybe just state what a lovely sunny day it was or remark on the pattern on her apron and she would then be able to consider in her own time whether to respond or not. It was much less stressful for both her and us.

We also used music a great deal in our communication with her. Singing to and with her just for pleasure or singing instructions or sentences to her to aid communication. It really worked. Singing works both sides of the brain and so it seems to give the chance for more connections to be made, enhancing understanding.

‘Empowered Conversations - the Musical’ is expanding on the invitation to respond concept. We arrived at the Bradford Carers' Hub and had nine enthusiastic people joining in, all with slightly differing involvements in dementia care though most were caring for someone with dementia. Some had been to the original emPoWereD Conversations course and some hadn’t. 

After all the intros and paperwork were done we got down to the serious business of exploring music starting with a joyous call and respond song. There were smiles immediately across the room from the sheer joy of singing together.

Lead by ex GP turned Music Therapist, Margaret Garner, we had two hours of exploring how rhythm and tempo affected conversations, musical or otherwise and can affect understanding and stress levels. We used our voices to sing, our hands to clap and wooden claves to beat rhythms. We learned how important it is to listen and adjust speed and complexity of conversations when necessary, and how it makes us feel part of a group.

We had lots of positive comments at the end about what had been helpful  - for example

“Learning speed and timing makes such a difference”

“Linking music and rhythm to conversation”

“How to make music and sound fun”

Participants have been asked to think, during the week, about what we have done and try to put it into practice and think about songs or pieces of music they and their loved one like.

I can’t wait for the next movement. :-) 

Find out more about Empowered Conversations here

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