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Published By Nuala Duignan on February 20, 2013

A new scheme is looking at the power of song to help people suffering from dementia.

Crossroads Care East Lancashire, England are looking for about 20 families who want to take part in a trial of a technique called Music Therapy Care Giving (MTC).

The idea, which originated in Sweden, is that carers of dementia patients will start to sing their loved ones' favourite kind of songs while they carry out their day-to-day jobs, with the hope that they will join in too.

John Rattigan, trustee of Crossroads Care East Lancashire, is leading the scheme. He said: “Research has found that this process leads to patients being more compliant, there is a reduction in medication, and people are being discharged from hospitals.”

A grant from the National Gardens Scheme is funding the project, which will see volunteers trained in the technique. They will then go into people’s homes to pass on their skills to a carer.

Mr Rattigan said: “For example, if I was looking after my wife at home, a volunteer from Crossroads would come round once a week to show me how to use singing.

“They would discuss with me what kind of music my wife likes, from which era, and they would make sure that the songs chosen are ones that my wife is familiar with.

“I, as a carer, would then start to sing as I carried out tasks like getting my wife dressed, or preparing food. The hope is that the patient will begin to join in with words and a melody they are familiar with.

“In following weeks, the volunteers would do follow-up visits to see how it was going, to see what works and to create a friendship.”

Professor Eva Götell of Mälardalens University found that singing can have positive influences on verbal communication, body expression, sensory awareness, and mood, and can even create a joint sense of vitality between the caregiver and the person with dementia.

MTC is thought to work because music memory is processed across many parts of the brain. And is thus preserved better than language memory alone.

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