Lauren Laverne is a BBC Radio 4 Desert Island discs and 6Music breakfast show presenter. She is at the forefront of a campaign by fronting a campaign by Music for Dementia 2020. The campaign aims to help people make playlists for family members and friends who live with dementia, to help them live well with dementia.
There’s still time in the days before xmas to make a playlist to help people living with dementia, cope, during the festive season. Christmas is a time that be difficult for carers and those with dementia, due to altered routines, stress and pressure of living up to expectations from other people.
The playlist awareness raising drive has been timed for the run up to Christmas, which “can be a stressful time for those living with dementia, their families and carers as usual routines are disrupted”, says the charity.
Music has been shown to bring people with dementia out of their shells. At times, flickers of recognition, knowing the words of full songs when previously non verbal, and even dancing along to their favourite tunes from their youth. Carers and families can join in, sharing some special moments, with someone that might struggle with any changes to the day to day.
There are online guides to help you choose the right music for someone who cannot choose for themselves, and helps far more than random music, which often has adverts playing in-between, which can negate the benefits of access to music.
Playlists are very personal things. For my mother, fifties music, Lena Martell and John Denver were her favourites, interspersed with a touch of magic from Perry Como and Frank Sinatra.
If you have access to other sources of music, you can make your own playlists on whichever platform you use. For mum, we make Apple paylists and played them on an Amazon Echo Dot, which was fabulous for me. Even if I was out, I could check in on her camera, be able to know if she was becoming agitated or upset at being in her room alone, and I could easily tell it to play a playlist that I knew would settle her.
If someone cannot talk or nod, and you don’t know the type of music someone enjoys, try playing some from your phone and judge the reaction. If you cannot do this, think about the decades from their youth, and select tracks that are easy listening, pleasant and not grating, without very obvious heavy bass that might be distressing.
Good luck. Music really does make the world a better place.