Dementia Friendly Choir ‘a lifeline’ during pandemic
The ‘This is Me’ Dementia Friendly Choir has been an ‘invaluable lifeline’ to its members and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Dementia Champion, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna.
As an urgent response to provide a continuity of care and social connectedness during COVID-19, the choir moved to virtual sessions, under the expert guidance of Thomas and Angela Hamilton from The Music Yard in Larne. A virtual programme of events replaced in-person sessions.
Alderman Mulvenna was speaking as Dementia Action Week 2021 gets underway from 17 to 23 May.
“People living with dementia need stimulation and structure, so it’s great that they can still join in the practices even though they aren’t able to leave their homes”, she said.
“Now, more than ever, in these uncertain times, it is crucial that the choir have continuity and feel supported and connected .The choir has been fortunate enough to meet virtually every week since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.
“It has been very distressing to see the marked deterioration week on week of some of our members, in particular, the carers. This is why it was necessary to provide more opportunities for this very vulnerable group to come together, albeit virtually.
“Thanks to financial support from Networks Involving Communities in Health Improvement, (NICHI) through Northern Area Community Network and funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), along with other small pots of funding, we were able to provide a range of therapeutic activities including singing, reminiscence and arts and crafts. This has really helped with general feelings of physical and mental wellbeing.
“Many of the participants describe the choir as a family, but I would say that it is an “incredibly supportive group of amazing individuals who have helped us all get through the last 15 months together.
“Whilst there is nothing that can beat face-to-face contact, our members have really embraced technology, which maintained their connection with the outside world. Thomas and Angela have consistently gone beyond the call of duty. They are remarkable, and we are truly indebted to them both.
“This amazing group have been there for each other during some really serious life-changing events and bereavements, as sadly three of our members passed away during the past year.”
Alderman Mulvenna said it is fitting that the theme of this year’s Dementia Action Week is #CureTheCareSystem, adding:
“Living with dementia at any time is incredibly challenging, but this vulnerable group have been disproportionately affected by the impact of the global pandemic. Lessons need to be learned as the impact of Covid-19 on care homes has been well documented. Therefore, it is very fitting that the theme of Dementia Action Week is to #CureTheCareSystem.
“One of the songs we have been singing is Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, and, to be honest, we all can’t wait until we meet again in the Music Yard when it is safe to do so. The ‘This is Me’ Dementia Friendly Choir members are such an amazing and inspirational group of individuals and I am so proud of them and what they have achieved.”
If you or someone you know is worried about or affected by dementia, Alzheimer’s Society is here for you. Visit alzheimers.org.uk or call the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456, which is open seven days a week and can help with advice, information and emotional support.