“To see the change in people’s faces and to see those who have got up, who usually choose not to walk, moving their legs and having a dance… it had a real positive effect on our unit.” – Sam Bradley, Care staff member, Elm Wing
This case study outlines the impact of a ten-week music project, delivered Spring 2023 at The Beeches Care Home in Liverpool, to support residents living with dementia. The Beeches provides residential, nursing and dementia care to people aged 65 and over.
The project, generously funded by a grant Parkhaven Trust received from the PH Holt Foundation, was delivered by Live Music Now musicians, Elfair Dyer (harp) and Ste Forshaw (guitar/vocals).
What We Did
Live Music Now delivered our innovative Live Music In Care project, working with residents living with dementia, and the staff team that supports them. Over a 10-week period (February to April 2023 ), the musicians conducted ten 30-minute interactive live music sessions in three units, with up to 15 residents participating in each session. The focus of these sessions was to improve residents’ mood, engagement, and relationships through music, encouraging participation and taking song requests.
Summary Impact on Residents, Team, and Home
The project had a profound impact on the residents, care home team, and the entire home environment. Key findings from the project evaluation shed light on the significant improvements experienced by all involved.
1) Impact on Residents
The sessions elicited remarkable positive changes in the residents’ typical behaviour during and after each session. The impact was observed by staff to be ‘significant,’ ‘huge’ and ‘positive,’ demonstrating heightened mood, increased engagement, and improved relationships with fellow residents and staff members. The project succeeded in fostering an atmosphere of joy and happiness amongst the residents, as expressed through their active participation in the music sessions.
Moreover, some non-verbal or less-mobile residents were observed to be “getting involved and singing” or “moving their legs and having a dance” during the sessions which were not typical behaviours for them. For example, a resident who was once in a band began “singing a lot more” following the music therapy sessions. Even some residents who were difficult to engage prior to the project were seen to be actively participating by singing or moving to the music.
The musicians also noted a change in energy throughout the sessions; ‘We were pleasantly surprised – the room changed during the session, and [there was] more energy in the room when we left’ (Elfair Dyer, Live Music Now Musician). The musicians also recalled a resident who requested ‘Over the Rainbow,’ which evoked an emotional response.
“I didn’t feel well this morning, but now I do! The music brings you back to life!” – Resident, aged 90.
2) Impact on Care Team and Home
The care home team benefited significantly from the project, as it enhanced their understanding, confidence, and skills in using music as a valuable tool in dementia care. The musicians’ approach to using participatory and personalised music inspired the staff, leading them to incorporate more music-based activities in their daily interactions with the residents.
The project also boosted staff morale, as they witnessed the positive impact of music on the residents’ wellbeing. The music sessions not only improved the residents’ mood but also lifted the spirits of the staff, creating a more positive and uplifting atmosphere in the care home.
The success of the project also highlighted the importance of person centred and structured live music activities in the care home setting. As a result, the staff has been more proactive in initiating music playing, utilising instruments such as tambourines and shakers, and frequently taking song requests from the residents. The residents’ happiness during the music sessions has motivated the staff to incorporate music into various aspects of their daily routines, further enhancing the overall quality of care provided.
“I love having the musicians in on a Wednesday. The job is very hard and the music helps my mental health. It helps me feel more positive and productive” – Care staff member, The Beeches
“The music lifts us all when we’re seeing the residents happy”- Sharon, Care staff member, Ash Wing
“The staff have witnessed firsthand the impact music can make – they were all buzzing… it’s had a real positive impact on staff. It’s boosted staff moral – if the staff are having a hard morning, we say let’s have a sing and a dance!” – Sam Bradley, Care staff member, Elm wing
“In the morning, once we say the musicians are coming, there is a change in the mood – they are excited!”- Care staff member, The Beeches
“It was a joy to visit The Beeches; it was a lovely residency for us. Over the 10 weeks, we felt that we all got to know each other better, and we saw more and more participation in the sessions over the course of the residency. Staff also enjoyed and appreciated the music!” – Elfair Dyer, Live Music Now Musician
“The musicians are fantastic. They interact so much with the residents and remember their names. Ste takes his guitar around and involves everyone. They are very responsive and gentle too.” – Care staff member, The Beeches
“The staff have seen a great impact in dementia. We’ve never witnessed an act that has come in and had such an impact. It’s been fantastic – everyone’s upset because they had to leave.”
“We miss [the musicians]! I miss my Wednesdays and want them back! The whole package has been brilliant – everybody’s benefited, and families have loved it – they’ve seen the impact it’s had on our service users, and they ask when they are coming back in.” – Sam Bradley, Care staff member, Elm wing
“Over the course of the 10 weeks, the engagement from residents grew and grew. We built relationships and saw meaningful musical and social outcomes in the form of dancing, singing, playing percussion, and happy conversations.” – Ste Forshaw, Live Music Now Musician
The Live Music in Care project at The Beeches Care Home, delivered by Live Music Now musicians Elfair Dyer and Ste Forshaw, has proven to be transformative for residents at The Beeches. The positive impact on mood, engagement, and relationships has created a more joyful and uplifting atmosphere within the care home. Moreover, the project has empowered the care home team, enhancing their appreciation and confidence in using music as an effective tool in dementia care. The success of this initiative underscores the vital role that carefully delivered live music can play in the lives of those living with dementia, their caregivers, and their environments – a shining example of the power of live music in health and care settings.
Photography: Sophie Whitley