The good news is that according to our surveys music activities in care homes have double the budget of ancillary or ‘entertainment’ activities. They are very much appreciated and valued. The bad news is that (with some notable exceptions), it’s still only around £100 per month on average that care homes can typically invest.
It’s important to remember that professional musicians are specialists, particularly where they have been trained to work in care settings, so they should be paid a fair professional rate in line with Musicians Union guidance.
Here are some examples of how to stretch the money further:
Based in the Gloucester area, Mindsong is a charity that uses a combination of paid music therapists and volunteers from amateur choirs to deliver regular singing sessions in care homes. This use of volunteers, who are carefully trained and supported, means that more sessions can take place, and that one-to-one support for residents with more advanced dementia is also possible.Handbooks for you, with specific advice and tips about leading music and singing sessions for older people.
Similarly, our surveys found examples of music leaders who bring voluntary buddies along with them, who sit amongst the residents to ensure that singing happens, and to sensitively help and encourage residents to particulate.
Live Music Now
Live Music Now is a charity with a network of trained professional musicians (such as those pictured above), based around the UK. They actively fundraise to enable their musicians to visit care homes, and may be able to help access funds. They have staff based in each region of the UK, who can be contacted here. The scheme welcomes applications to join it from musicians at the starts of their careers, who must pass an audition process.
Singing for the Brain
Singing for the Brain is a service provided by Alzheimer’s Society which uses singing to bring people together in a friendly and stimulating social environment. They use a combination of volunteers and paid leaders. More details here.
Amateur choirs and song groups
There are thousands of amateur singers in the UK, many of whom are members of choral societies and informal singing groups in communities everywhere. Our surveys showed that such groups are interested in how they can support music activities in care homes. You can find your nearest groups through Making Music, the umbrella organisation for amateur music in the UK.
Sing For Your Life
Sing for Your Life is a charity that delivers a range of programmes to support people with long term health conditions, including those in care homes. They run ‘silver song clubs’, and can provide a Silver Song Music Box, to help informal singing group take place. More details here.
It can sometimes to be tempting to work with local musicians or music organisations that are convenient or cheap, but do not understand how music can impact on older people, particularly those living with dementia. Whilst there is not one single best approach to providing music in care homes, we hope this website will give you an idea of what is possible, so that you can judge for yourself whether your own offering is providing the most rewarding experience for everyone involved. It’s also important to remember that older people are entitled to be treated with respect, and we would question whether only singing songs such as “The White Cliffs of Dover” is appropriate.