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Capturing how care home residents respond to participatory music sessions

Julian West explains how he has introduced a novel method of data capture to Music for Life 360 sessions in care home settings.
Music For Life is a programme of work that started about 20 years ago, and it brings professional musicians into residential care homes for people living with dementias. And we work collaboratively to create music through improvisation with people living with dementias, often in the very advanced stages of dementias, and the professional carers who work with them. So, the purpose of the work is to explore ways in which people who are living with dementias, and particularly with advanced dementias, to be able to participate fully within social environments. So the emphasis is very much on improvisation and on in-the-moment experience. It’s about interaction and finding ways for people to connect and communicate that don’t rely upon memory or on verbal skills, for example.
And some of the things that we see is that people who have maybe been very isolated or who’ve become very uncommunicative and unconfident, we do find ways in which they are able to connect and that they are able to express themselves. And some of the care staff who we work with are often surprised at the extent to which people do wish to participate and that they want to communicate and/or to contribute. We decided that we would find a way of capturing data from a ‘Music For Life’ project. And one of the other collaborators here suggested that we could use a 360-degree camera, which wasn’t something I’d even actually heard of.
So it’s just a small, little device that would sit in the middle of our circle whilst we’re working and would just capture video of everything that was happening. And then, of course, with that data, that means that that footage can then be examined and can be analysed by a whole range of different people with different expertise, from musicians and artists, people with expertise in dementia care, neuropsychologists like Seb himself, for example. And that, from that, we’d get a really, really rich picture of what was happening in that work and in those sessions, really.
And that this anecdotal and observational evidence that was coming from carers and relatives would kind of be reinforced, I think, by the range of expertise of people that are looking at the data. What I’m really hoping is going to come out of it is that it will demonstrate that people with dementia, and particularly people with advanced dementias, do respond. And that their desire to connect and communicate is still very, very present in people, and it’s often urgent. And that the perception of dementia, particularly advanced dementia– that people are uncommunicative, that they’re isolated, that they’re unable to be in relationship with people– is not necessarily to do, actually, with the dementia itself.
But it’s to do with the environment and the context and the ways in which we are communicating with people.

Julian West explains how he has introduced a novel method of data capture to Music for Life 360 sessions in care home settings.

In this step you will hear Julian explain how he hopes that data gathered during these sessions will help to inform future research in various disciplines into how individuals who are withdrawn or unresponsive as a result of living with advance dementia, are able to demonstrate their desire to contribute creative sessions.

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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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