Transforming Communities

Live Music in Care: Building Confidence and Connection

‘Our residents are happier and more engaged. Music activities boost the mood of the entire house – residents and staff alike.’ Staff member, The Params

This case study outlines the impact of a 11-week music project, delivered Winter 2023-24 at The Params, a family run residential care home for people with learning disabilities in Purley, London.

The project, generously funded by the City Bridge Foundation was delivered by Live Music Now musicians Duo Furioso – Urška Horvat and Helena Švigelj, both cellists.

What We Did

Live Music Now delivered our innovative Live Music In Care project, working with residents aged 55 to 95, a number living with dementia, as well as the staff team that supports them.

Before the project started, staff at The Params were already using music, singing and dancing in some of their activities. Duo Furioso developed staff’s confidence and skills in using music during their visits, with the aim of empowering staff to take full ownership of music sessions at the end of the residency.

The project kicked off with a training workshop for the musicians and care home staff delivered by Live Music Now alum and mentor David Jones. This was followed by an introductory concert and planning meeting with staff. David checked-in on musicians and staff, observing two of their sessions during the course of the project. This helped to provide fresh ideas and valuable feedback.

By the time of David’s first visit, four weeks into the project, staff were already actively shaping the music sessions by bringing song suggestions and leading singing and conducting activities. In his subsequent visit three weeks before the end of the project, staff led much of the session independently. Urška and Helena supported them in the transition to using recordings instead of live performance.

‘Urška and Helena were perfection! They got to know our staff team and residents and gave us the skills that would help us lead in music activities that our residents would get the best from. After each session they would give us positive feedback and tips on what we could do better. By the end of the project, the staff team truly felt confident in their abilities to organise and lead music activities. A big thank you to Urška, Helena and The Live Music Now team. We feel so blessed to have had this opportunity.’ Staff member, The Params

Summary Impact on Residents, Team and Home

For care staff, participating in the Live Music in Care project has increased their confidence in leading musical activities to a very high level. Staff felt supported to try out their own ideas, and receiving feedback from Urška and Helena allowed them to develop their plans while seeing what worked best for their residents.

As a result of working with Live Music Now the care team have now taken full ownership of the music at The Params, from bringing in song suggestions to developing creative ideas for the sessions. Staff came up with lots of new music activities, including using rhythm with words, drums, singing and dancing.

‘I now understand how to lead a well-structured music activity that is engaging and different each time. I have confidence on how to plan and lead the activity jointly with my staff team. I now have the tools and skills to organise a variety of music activities that engage and lift the mood of our residents. Our residents and staff team are far happier and connected as a result.’ Staff member, The Params

Resident engagement in music sessions has also increased since the start of the residency. The musicians observed residents who were shy at the start make progress that they’d never seen before. When one participant heard music they particularly enjoyed, the impact was striking: ‘as soon as she would hear music that evoked some good and positive memories from her past, she would join us. Her mood would completely change – she would start enjoying herself, smiling, dancing and singing.’

Care staff and musicians both noted the positive impact on residents’ wellbeing. A staff member observed that a resident ‘whose mood is generally quite low, would often be lifted by the music, she would cheer and say, ‘I like that one!’’ Another participant who doesn’t usually enjoy group activities would have a big smile every Thursday morning: ‘it’s music today, I like it!’

Throughout the project, the musicians observed the remarkable development in relationships between residents and staff members, who ‘were communicating more with each other through the activities, hugging each other, dancing together, and openly expressing the deep connections and appreciation to one another.’

For Duo Furioso, the impact of their time at The Params was ‘the most enjoyable, fruitful and gratifying so far. We connected extremely well with the staff and residents and built meaningful and caring relationships.’

Lasting Legacy

“I didn’t realise music could be so powerful.” – Indira Baster, Registered Manager, The Params

Several months after the end of Duo Furioso’s time at The Params, staff continue to make music with the residents. For Home Manager Indira Baster, Helena and Urška’s approach to individuals is one of the things that staff have built on, noting the impact of a person-centred approach with Rachel, the oldest resident at The Params:

“Rachel is 92 and is an amazing woman. She can have angry feelings and walk in and say “I don’t like this noise’. Urška & Helena could shift that change her perception of what she was doing, and how she was feeling.
That would happen every week. They made it very person-centred and turned things around. Rachel went from saying “what is this noise shut up shut up” to standing next to them and saying “I love this .” It changed her mood- away from annoyed to content, happy and was more at ease in herself.
This has continued throughout our music sessions since the residency ended. We always try to bring different elements to a music session that is person centred to individuals. More often than not, Rachel will join in.”

Music has always been part of life at The Params, but now sessions are about creativity and joining in, rather than simply listening. Staff use music in a different, individualised way and feel confident to bring different elements to the music sessions they lead.

“We know our residents so well that using what we learnt from them [Helena and Urška], we can cater to all their needs, likes and dislikes during a session, and help them get the most out of a session.”

Connections within the team and with the residents are also flourishing: “There is another resident who has dementia and music really helps him. When we put on ABBA he’ll get up and dance and hug people. The way we are able to use it [music] with him now… is very different from before.”

“Doing the music sessions had a huge impact. They helped to get the connections back. Not only for the relationships with residents, but also as a team as well; lifting the energy of the team and the energy of the room. After you had done that session, if you had to go and sort out the washing or do other jobs you are feeling energised by it and feel good.”

Music now forms an integral part of life at The Params, with care staff Indira, Maddy and Geena continuing to lead sessions once a week. The music is there to stay, building on the deep connections that have already been built between residents and staff.

You can find out more about our work in care homes here or contact our Strategic Director of Adult Social Care and Health, Douglas Noble [email protected]

Photo credit: Ivan Gonzalez