Jeanette Maitland is a retired Business Studies teacher, living near Aberdeen. Her husband, Ken, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinsonism in 2003. Jeanette cared for Ken until his death in 2012. Jeanette was a founding member of NDCAN and has been an active campaigner on several issues, particularly around personal care in the home. She has spoken at conferences and events across Scotland and abroad to raise awareness on the issues impacting unpaid carers of people with dementia. Below, Jeanette talks about the work she has done with her local Musical Memories group during lockdown.
No one reading this will need reminding of how Covid 19 has impacted on our lives. In particular, the lives of the vulnerable, people with dementia and those living alone. Essential restrictions and constraints meant closure of activities previously available and enjoyed by many. There has been a great loss of human interaction, face to face communication, and much needed contact with our loved ones.
Prior to Covid, in Aberdeen, our Musical Memories Group run by volunteers took place in the Dementia Resource Centre on a Friday morning. It was thoroughly enjoyed by members, volunteers, and visitors so we were obviously very disappointed we could no longer meet for a chat, song 🎼, laughter😁 and a nice cuppa ☕️🍰. In general, having a good old time.
It was suggested the volunteers could keep in touch by having a walk in the park coinciding with the time of the Musical Memories session. However, that idea was blown out of the water when further restrictions were imposed. Not to be beaten, our long standing volunteers suggested our producing something to pass on to our members, and after discussion by all, the idea of our 'wee home video' was born. It sounds simple enough until the technical snags started appearing - we all had a good laugh though, and we blamed the 'gremlins' being at work when glitches occurred. One of the numerous things we learned was the use of the mute/unmute button! It's good to remember though, that it's still a work in progress and we are still learning. We have now produced 20 wee videos and the quality and standard can vary from week to week. It seems like the gremlins don't take days off!
At this point some of you may be asking the question🙋 - why bother? What good is it doing? What's in it for you? The answers are quite simple.
- Lots of people with dementia and carers attended various activities pre Covid, and are now missing out on the friendship and fellowship that was enjoyed and looked forward to. We merely wanted to continue our connection and hopefully provide a bit of light relief. To do this though, new skills had to be learned, mostly by our 'leading light' volunteers having to pick the brains of their more technological friends. They have been marvellous - recording, inserting clips, linking everything up, and it may be that they blame this learning process for the change in their hair colour!
- As far as members and viewers are concerned, there has been encouragement from their feedback. Some folks were so happy to see their loved ones singing along to a song, a broad smile on their face, having conversations or reminiscing, and just enjoying the general feel good factor the session left them with. Of course, the video can be viewed as often as you like, and at any time of day or night which has been of real help to some carers.
- As for the volunteers, it is fair to say that we all gain great pleasure from mixing with our members and friends, the conversations, cuppas, laughter using the musical instruments and hearing their updates as we chat. We missed all of this so greatly the 'wee home video' (glitches, gremlins and all) is our way of trying to stay connected. We all get so much from the Musical Memories sessions. If we can bring someone to smile, laugh, reminisce or start a conversation - even if just to say how good, bad or indifferent the video was - then mission accomplished.
Please do not be discouraged from starting up a Musical Memories session (or any group) due to your lack of skills. There is always someone out there with knowledge to set you on your way as you learn on the job. Alzheimer Scotland staff in your locality could also help. Volunteers become deeper friends and even though three of our group are members of the Sweet Adeline singers and the rest vary in their vocal skills, taking part is so worthwhile as we enjoy singing and love the banter with our members. Although initially the video link was circulated by our Dementia Resource Centre in Aberdeen to Musical Memories members, this has now been expanded to members of our 4 local Dementia Cafes (The Living Well Project) and has also been viewed by Moray and other regions. One of the ways you can link up is to visit Alzheimer Scotland's Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire Facebook page.
We are sending you all our love, hugs, good wishes and keep smiling xxxx ❤️