Music in care homes – Embedding musical approaches to care through staff training

by | 23 Jan 2024 | Research Spotlight | 0 comments

The Team

My research centres on the ways in which musical participation can positively impact on people living with dementia, as well as ‘in the moment’ approaches to care in a dementia context. I am part of a cross-disciplinary research team (psychology, nursing, music, social work) from across the University of Manchester, with a long-standing relationship with Manchester Camerata – an orchestra and charity who have developed an innovative music programme for people living with dementia, their family care-partners, and staff carers working in care homes.

What is Music in Mind?

Music in Mind is underpinned by the values and principles of live, improvisation-based music making (i.e., spontaneous creation ofImage of various musical instruments rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic material) and includes people at all stages of dementia and/or who are experiencing self-reported memory problems. Each session is co-facilitated by a music therapist and an orchestral musician from Manchester Camerata who has been specially trained in working alongside and with people living with dementia. The values of co-facilitation and co-creation are at the heart of Music in Mind, meaning that music-making is centred on ‘in the moment’ creativity, improvisation, inclusivity and collaborative participation. To date, Music in Mind has engaged 11,000 people living with dementia, their family carers and care staff/supporters across Greater Manchester and the North West of England.

Music in Care Homes

In recent years, Manchester Camerata have been working closely with staff carers from care homes to build their confidence in using music with their residents to complement the live Music in Mind programme. Alongside 20 Music in Mind sessions, care staff receive training from the Music in Mind musicians and music therapists across 10 sessions. Over the past 18-months (funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research) our cross-disciplinary research team have been conducting a process evaluation of the training programme to understand the mechanisms underpinning the programme and explore how the training impacts care staff’s sense of confidence and wellbeing.

This study will conclude in Spring 2024, and we are looking forward to sharing study findings. While I cannot report on any concrete findings at this moment in time, you can read about a Research Café we held in collaboration with Creative Manchester, Manchester Camerata, and Health Inequalities at the University of Manchester here.

Future Directions…

This research will produce a Theory of Change which underpins the musical training programme for care staff. This model shares the ‘conditions’ under which the successful implementation of the training is possible. We have observed that there are many challenges to embedding such programmes to enable everyday access to musical care for people with dementia within care homes but hope that we can continue to work collaboratively with Manchester Camerata to build an evidence-informed approach to their practices going forwards.

About the Author

Dr Robyn Dowlen is a Research and Teaching Associate in the Division of Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Manchester. Her reserach focuses on understanding how music and the arts impact the lives of people living with dementia.