Judith, a volunteer from Dumfries and Galloway has been making such a difference by sharing her passion for music.
A retired nursery nurse, Judith has had a love of music her whole life. She has been volunteer at Musical Minds, a music based reminiscence and singing group activity group for nearly three years. The group offers a wide variety of songs, influenced by the group dynamics. It could be Scottish songs, songs from the war, or they moved to more modern songs when they found the group attendees were slightly younger. No matter the genre of music, they are all united by a fondness for a good singsong!
There is a lot of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic power of music for people living with dementia. It can reduce anxiety and lift the mood, provide entertainment, and provide a powerful tool for reminiscence.
This is something Judith has seen first-hand, recalling: “There was one occasion where we were going to sing ‘The Northern Lights of Aberdeen’. There was a couple and that day happened to be their wedding anniversary. The husband, originally from Aberdeen, was living with dementia. I passed out the words and dedicated the song to the couple. The gentlemen started to sing along. He knew all the verses. His wife said to me ‘you will never know how much that has meant to us. We were both crying. Not with sadness, with joy!’.
Another time there was a lady who had grown up on her father’s farm in Drummore, which is where I come from. I know a song about Drummore and so I sang it to the group. The song brought back so many memories for this lady and she joined in with me, singing as much as she could.
That’s what musical minds gave to people. It was wonderful. And I got a lift myself. I had done something to help them, and it made me feel good because it made them feel good.”
During the pandemic, when face-to-face groups had to cease, Judith became a telephone companion volunteer and continues to do so now. She was carefully matched with people who shared her love of music. At some points, Judith has had three matches all at once. She calls her matches every week, talking for as long as they need or want to. Sometimes up to an hour at a time. Even with a phone line between them, music is a powerful connector and often the conversation will turn to singing. This was particularly true over Christmas with Judith singing carols down the line.
One lady whose husband is one of Judith’s matches said: “Since my husband has been receiving the companion calls it allows me to have an hour to myself, to shower or catch up on housework. I love to listen to my husband singing with his companion. It’s just like the old days when he was a singer in a choir. I get emotional listening.”
Nina Raynor, Volunteer Coordinator for Dumfries & Galloway, said, “Judith has been a great asset to Alzheimer Scotland. Her love for music has been very beneficial to our musical mind groups and the people she supports through our telephone companion service. Judith is a very committed volunteer and it’s great to have enthusiastic people like her helping us make sure nobody faces dementia alone.”