Music Therapy Week 22 – 28 June #MTW2015

Instrumental Role of Music Therapy in Supporting People with Dementia

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This year’s music therapy week has a focus on the instrumental role music therapy has to play in supporting people with dementia and those who care for them. Leading research has shown that music therapy can significantly help to improve and support the mood, alertness and engagement of people with dementia, can reduce the use of medication, as well as helping to manage and reduce agitation, isolation, depression and anxiety, overall supporting a better quality of life (Ridder et al, 2013)

We are celebrating music therapy week with you, with a blog post from Rebecca, our Alzheimer Scotland music therapy intern @mt_rebecca

Catch up with the Alzheimer Scotland Music Therapy Intern

I have now been in post for six months with Alzheimer Scotland and would like to update you on the progress I have been making.  I invite you to listen to my suggested song titles as you read through my blog…

Over the last few months I have been developing my thinking around the practicalities of delivering therapeutic musical activity for people living with dementia. I am in the early stages of developing a document called ‘Music and Me’. This document hopes to do two things:

  1. Promote person centred practice by creating a musical life story for a person living with dementia from childhood through to present day, a profile that can begin at any time for anyone.
  2. Encouraging carers, families, staff, activity organisers and allied health professionals to partnership work and share good practice when engaging people in meaningful musical activity.

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I am about to pilot the idea and work in partnership with a music therapy student from Queen Margaret University in the autumn to see if the theory and aspirations of Music and Me can work in practice.

“I get by with a little help from my friends”, The Beatles

Sharing my learning and my role as a music therapy intern is a large part of my day to day work.  In September 2015, Dr Philippa Derrington  @PLDerrington, Queen Margaret University and I will be presenting at the ‘Music Therapy and Dementia Conference’, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. The title of our paper is ‘Approaching dementia care together’, this will bring focus on the strategic alliance Alzheimer Scotland have formed with Queen Margaret University, and the progress of music therapy within Alzheimer Scotland.  I am looking forward to sharing all the work I have been developing.

“Listen (Dream girls)”, Beyoncé 

Sometimes it’s good to stop, blether and listen! Who knows what we might learn…

Across Scotland AHP’s have been engaging the public in “tea and blether” sessions. The blethers took place throughout dementia awareness week, to help promote the public and professionals to talk about dementia.

I was involved in “blethering” for the week and had many enquiries about the use of music therapy within dementia care. The blether sessions were a great opportunity to spread the word about what music therapist have to offer people living with dementia. On reflection, the blether sessions also provided the AHP’s with the opportunity to listen to the needs of the general public.

“Express yourself”, Labrinth 

Music therapy is all about providing people with the opportunity to express themselves…

Over the last eight weeks I have been running an open music therapy group within Alzheimer Scotland day care services in Dumfries. Music therapy had a role in bringing a group of people together with varying interests, experience and abilities.  The group engaged in creating meaningful music, meaningful conversation and reminiscence therapy. Everyone within the group was able to share the experience with each other and had the opportunity to engage in the music in any way they wished. The music therapy sessions were tailored to peoples individual needs whilst also being part of a group that had a focus on a ‘can do’ attitude.  By doing this I found people were empowered to express themselves within sessions, were creative while also making music.

The feedback from everyone involved was extremely positive.

Some of the comments included:

  • “Music therapy makes me feel happy”
  • “I enjoyed being part of a group”
  • “The music has a big impact on that man, it’s amazing”

The overall feedback suggested that people felt happy and relaxed after the sessions and my colleagues comments reflected this too.

In the next few weeks I will be running music therapy sessions in our sensory day care service in Alzheimer Scotland Dumfries resource centre. The focus of this work will take on a similar format but engage people with advanced dementia. I am confident of the benefits of music therapy for people with advanced dementia, enabling people to engage in a therapy that is inclusive, person centred and has the ability to tap into memories of long ago

“Thank you for the music”, Amanda Seyfried (mamma mia)

Thank you for supporting music therapy and dementia by reading this blog. Please feel to leave reflections, comments and questions below.

June 22nd-28th is music therapy week… why not share your favourite piece of music with a loved one…

Thank you for the music!

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Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern


I recently graduated from Anglia Ruskin University with a postgraduate Master of Arts degree in Music Therapy. At present I am working with Alzheimer Scotland as a Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern. I have a key interest in further researching the benefit of music therapy for someone living with dementia. I gained this interest after having a personal experience with a close family friend who had Alzheimer’s disease, I was inspired by her clear motivation when interacting musically with me. This initial experience led me to train as a music therapist.  I hope that throughout my time working with Alzheimer Scotland I can contribute to the growing research around music therapy and dementia care.

“A blog a day blether” for #DAW2015


Allied Health Professionals Q&A

Day 1

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Hello & Welcome

During Dementia awareness week allied health professionals are posting a “blog a day” as a Q&A by four of our allied health professional colleagues.   We invited the Scottish Dementia Working Group (@S_D_W_G), National Dementia Carers Action Network and people we work with, to ask questions to a dietitian, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapy and a speech & language therapist. This is the first blog in our series of five and offers an introduction to our Q & A blog posts

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Day 1 Q & A

Three questions of my questions we were asked by the Scottish Dementia Working Group. The final question was asked at the Age Scotland member’s conference with colleagues Yolanda @Yol_ahp and Jenny @JennyAckland2.

Question 1

“How would we know about what services AHPs could provide for us if we hadn’t come to this meeting?”


You can find out more about each profession on their professional body website. Each one of the allied health professionals have their own professional body, standards of professional practice and can be contacted directly.  In our blog we include the links to these professional bodies in our “Useful Links” section.

You will also find contact details of AHP services in your local health board website where there maybe be a list of what services are available. Here is an example in NHS Lothian.

You can also contact your local authority who can link you to the occupational therapists. Here is an example by Edinburgh Council

You will find a few of us on social media so you can connect with us there too. If you follow the hash tag #AHPDementia you will see some of us there. All our twitter handles are included in our contributors pages too.

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Question 2

“How do you know what you are entitled to and where to go to get help?”


One document you may want to look at for the allied health professionals is their Consensus Statement on Quality Service Values which brings together, for the first time, the minimum, collective service values of the Allied Health Professions into one clear statement and clarifies for service users what they can expect from Allied Health Professionals and Allied Health Professional service providers. You should expect to meet a group of professionals that are responsive, engaged, inclusive, safe, effective and most importantly person centred

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Added to that, all the allied health professionals in the health service and local authority will be registered to the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) HCPC are a regulator, who were set up to protect the public and they keep a Register of health and care professionals who meet their standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health. Use this website to ensure that any private AHP practitioner is a registered Allied Health Professional

More specifically to what you are “entitled” to if you are living with dementia, you could also look at the Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland.  These standards have been developed to help people living with dementia and their carers understand their rights, and how these rights can help make sure that you receive the support you need to stay well, safe and listened to.  The standards are based on your rights. You should use them to get the care, treatment and support you need.

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Some extract from the standards that link to the role of allied health professionals

“Service providers will ensure that the actions of their staff and their policies and procedures demonstrate that staff use a variety of communication aids to help communication, including the use of life story books, talking mats, digital stories, interpreters as appropriate and referral to speech and language therapy”. (page 15)

“NHS Boards will ensure that a range of non-drug based interventions are available and include evidence based therapies, such as group based or individual cognitive stimulation, individual reality orientation therapy, art therapy, therapeutic activities and physical exercise programmes”. (page 25)

“All service providers will give people with dementia the support they need, wherever they are living, to continue to be involved in their ordinary activities such as; exercise, involvement in music, dance, social events and religious activity and to become involved in new activities and experiences”. (page 32)

To ensure continuous improvement, the standards should be used in conjunction with Promoting Excellence: A framework for health and social care staff working with people with dementia and their carers. The framework outlines in detail the skills and knowledge health and social care staff should have depending on the role they play in supporting people with dementia. We aspire that all allied health professionals on graduation and in practice worked at the minimum of “skilled”.

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Question 3

“The role of community psychiatric nurse is still seen as central for our members.  Do AHPs have close links with them? “


Allied health professionals build strong partnerships with other agencies, community providers and also other members of the multidisciplinary team both in the NHS and local authority.  This will also include our community psychiatric nurses, district nurses and more recently the Alzheimer Scotland Link workers too. So yes we do have close links with the community psychiatric nurse who you can ask to refer you to an allied health professional in your local area.

Question 4

“How do I get in touch with an AHP if I need one?””


This is a question we are asked a lot and we have developed a new leaflet to help answer this question. Today we launch our Alzheimer Scotland allied health professionals leaflet, click here to access the leaflet.

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Over the forthcoming weeks, this leaflet will be available in all our Alzheimer Scotland resource centres and directs you to how to get in touch with five of the allied health professions including dietitians, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatrists and speech and language therapy.

We have many other allied health professionals not included in this leaflet as this leaflet was about those you are most likely to see in a community setting. Email us at if you would like to hear more about arts therapies, orthoptists, paramedics, prothetists, orthotists and radiographers (diagnostic & radiographers) in Scotland and we will and offer you a link to these professions too.

What’s next in this week’s blog series?

Finally, over the remaining four’s days, we have a Q & A series of real questions from people living with dementia and their carers being answered by members of the Alzheimer Scotland allied health professions dementia expert group so look out for them and please join in our “blog a day blether” for #DAW2015.


We welcome ideas and comments from our readers this blog to any of the answers in case I have missed out anything.

Tomorrow’s blog will be by Gillian and “Ask a Dietitian” Q & A.

Elaine HunterElaine Hunter
Allied Health Professional Consultant, Alzheimer Scotland

My remit in Alzheimer Scotland is to bring the skills of AHPs to the forefront of dementia practice and to share with them the principles and practice of working in a major charity that is dedicated to “making sure nobody faces dementia alone”. I am leading the delivery of commitment 4 of Scotland’s Dementia Strategy. In short, a great job working with great people.

Music Therapy & Dementia Care


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Rebecca invites you to listen to this song while you read her blog  where she shares four answers to four questions on her new role as a music therapist in Alzheimer Scotland,

1. What is music therapy? 

Music therapy uses the unique qualities of music as a non-verbal interaction between client and therapist. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical dialogue to interact and    communicate, regardless of their musical ability.

Music Therapy is grounded in the belief that EVERYONE can respond to music. Music plays a significant role in our everyday lives and can often be exciting, calming, joyful or poignant. Music is an international language which can allow a person to express themselves and communicate with others.

Music therapy is a psychological therapy which uses music to build a relationship between therapist and client.

2. Do people need to be musical to do take part in music therapy?

In short “no”. People engage in music therapy in a way that is right for them. Sessions can be one-to-one or in small or large group. The work can involve:

  • Playing different instruments
  • Singing
  • Playing/ listening to music you know and enjoy, or music made up in the spot
  • Movement
  • Writing meaningful and creative songs/music.

Everyone’s experience of music therapy is different because every person is different. While music therapists can work very flexibly with individuals, they will also set clear aims and objectives for the therapy, in conjunction with the person, their relatives, carers and other professionals. These aims can change, as the work progresses; the form that the music therapy takes can also develop, according to the individual’s needs.

3. What will be your role in Alzheimer Scotland?

I spend two days of the week working clinically as a music therapist, taking referrals from my colleagues at Alzheimer Scotland and Mental Health Services in NHS Dumfries and Galloway. I am developing a new music therapy service within Dumfries and Galloway. In short I have three main roles:

  • To provide music therapy sessions within Alzheimer Scotland (Dumfries & Galloway) while learning about Alzheimer Scotland as a whole, considering the role of music therapy within a large third sector organisation.
  • To share my learning with others; raising awareness of the benefit music therapy for people living with dementia through networking, training, blogging and tweeting.
  • To work with Elaine, @elaineahpmh and Adrienne @adrienneahpmh to build on a programme for AHP students, AHP interns and AHP volunteers, my focus will be music therapy.

4. What has been the highlight of your new role?

As a part of my induction I have attended various therapeutic activity groups, and have spent time in the local Alzheimer Scotland Resource Centres. I have been inspired to see the enjoyment on people’s faces when they have created and participated in something meaningful to them.  When attending the groups and resource centres, I have witnessed a great sense of community and shared experience with people living with dementia, carers, volunteers and Alzheimer Scotland staff. I have observed the value of therapeutic activity groups and recourse centres in supporting someone living with dementia and their carer.

Closing thoughts & considerations

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  • I believe as a music therapist that we can all respond to music no matter how far along our life journey we are, it just takes the right person to help you find your music within.
  • Music therapist meet people at their own level, everyone is different and there is not right and wrong in music therapy. ‘It aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it’!


  • Why not challenge yourselves and consider how often you hear/use music in your everyday lives? I think you’ll all be surprised…
  • Is music important to you as an individual and do you believe we can all respond to music in our own way?
  • Why not take some time to view the ‘Music Therapy New perspective’ video on youtube and consider the diverse benefits music therapy has to offer EVERYONE!

My own inspirations

Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern


I recently graduated from Anglia Ruskin University with a postgraduate Master of Arts degree in Music Therapy. At present I am working with Alzheimer Scotland as a Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern. I have a key interest in further researching the benefit of music therapy for someone living with dementia. I gained this interest after having a personal experience with a close family friend who had Alzheimer’s disease, I was inspired by her clear motivation when interacting musically with me. This initial experience led me to train as a music therapist.  I hope that throughout my time working with Alzheimer Scotland I can contribute to the growing research around music therapy and dementia care.