Church singing project’s remarkable effect on dementia sufferers

Rev Brian Casey

Rev Brian Casey

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Pensioners living with dementia are undergoing an “amazing” transformation thanks to a new Church of Scotland-run singing project.

Rev Brian Casey of Springburn Parish Church said nearby care home residents were mostly unresponsive during family visits but “come alive” when they attend the weekly “Singing for the Brain” song and dance class.

The therapy project, hosted in the church hall, is attended by around 45 people every Monday and features a wide variety of songs from yesteryear by the likes of Frank Sinatra and The Corries, which trigger happy memories and effectively reanimate them.

Mr Casey said research had shown that memory of music was the last thing to disappear in people living with dementia.

The lungs and heart are also exercised by singing.

Mr Casey said: “I am amazed at the power music has to lift the spirits of someone so unresponsive and suffering from dementia.

“I know that any time I have taken a service in an old folks home, the people who have dementia can sing without needing a hymn book and yet they couldn’t recognise their own children.

“The families have told us that when they go into care homes to visit their loved ones they often don’t react to them but as soon as they come to the church and sing and dance they come alive and are happy.

“They are effectively re-animated which is truly remarkable to watch.”

Mr Casey said the 90-minute class is run by volunteers who lead the singing and play the accompanying music.

He added that the project was the idea of church member Brian Smith and is funded by an organisation called Faith in Communities Scotland.

Popular songs include Ye Cannae Shove Yer Grannie aff a Bus, I am a Cat, a Glesga Cat, the Hokey Cokey and Wild Mountain Thyme.

Mr Casey said: “Families are delighted with the response to the class because they get to spend quality time with someone who normally doesn’t speak or respond.

“One carer, who was also the person’s daughter, said that she had managed to spend quality time with her mother for the first time in years.

“We have had letters of thanks too from staff at care homes - it is truly is a fantastic resource.

“The project has brought people to the church who normally we would not see and they are getting help in a way that a Sunday service couldn’t bring.”

Alzheimer’s Society provide a Singing for the Brain service which uses singing to bring people together in a friendly and stimulating social environment.

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