As a student I can remember being amazed when I first met someone who, due to stroke, was unable to share her name or speak a sentence, and yet could sing an entire song.
As I learnt about the brain and its role in language, I also observed how music could act as a powerful bridge to communication allowing carers to reach their loved ones when they are no longer able to use words.
We know that music is a wonderful medium for reminiscing with those with memory loss. While they may not recall every detail from events in the past, certain songs and types of music can stimulate the brain to recall some of the emotions and memories of days past. A powerful and important connection to our sense of self.
The simple act of singing has some physical benefits too, such as improving the flow of oxygen in the body, which can lead to improved alertness, motor control and coordination.
We can perhaps all recall a time when music has nurtured the spirit – it can calm and comfort someone in distress, and nursing research has illustrated the part music can play in reducing pain.
All of the above felt like great reasons to warmly welcome the Singing Sensations into our hospital. Joyce and Elaine are two amazing women who are bringing joy and music to ward 23 for the benefit of patients and staff. Singing groups are held in the day room – a chance to make some noise and reminisce over special songs and cake.
A gentleman arrived at our first singing session feeling very apprehensive. Joyce noticed his lips moving but no sound was coming out. Joyce sat next to him for a while until he shared that he didn’t like singing out loud. He could still recall a time at school when his teacher had told him he couldn’t sing and threatened him with punishment if she heard him again. The special environment created on the ward that day made the gentleman feel safe enough to sing out loud for the first time in over 60 years.
· “This is fantastic. It makes everyone feel happy”
· “I loved it. Can I come again?”
· “This is what it’s all about….seeing people happy. “
· “The day room is a great place to hold the singing - you feel at ease. “
· “Loved it. I’ll come back every time”
· “It’s lovely for patients – they come out the day room smiling”
· “You can hear the music and the singing throughout the ward. Even patients who aren’t in the day room can hear the music. “
Elaine and Joyce, we salute you for the time you give to making our NHS a happier place. As Ella Fitzgerald would remind us ‘The only thing better than singing is more singing …’
Posted on behalf of Annie Laverty at Northumbria Healthcare