Mak­ing me­mories through mu­sic for de­men­tia pa­tients

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

A lead­ing author­ity on the use of mu­sic in the care of peo­ple with de­men­tia has pledged to tell the world about the joy it brings after win­ning a pres­ti­gious award.

Nia Davies-Wil­liams is 25,000 words into her book Sketches of Bro­ken Minds which will give a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the im­pact her mu­sic has had on el­derly peo­ple suf­fer­ing the dis­ease.

As Mu­si­cian in Res­i­dence at the Bryn Seiont Newydd cen­tre of ex­cel­lence for de­men­tia care in Caernar­fon, Nia, 45, achieves a re­mark­able con­nec­tion with res­i­dents through singing and play­ing the harp and pi­ano.

Her work in the home saw her step into the spot­light to re­ceive a gold award at the Welsh Care Os­cars at Cardiff City Hall.

She was the win­ner of the Sir Bryn Ter­fel Foun­da­tion Wales Care Award for Pro­mot­ing the Arts in So­cial Care.

She was nom­i­nated by col­leagues for bring­ing ‘light and joy’ into the lives older peo­ple with de­men­tia who can no longer com­mu­ni­cate.

“I knew I was short-listed in the awards but my col­leagues kept the cat­e­gory as a sur­prise,” Nia said.

“They knew how much it would mean to me to win the Sir Bryn Ter­fel prize and raise fur­ther aware­ness of the amaz­ing im­pact mu­sic has in the care of peo­ple with de­men­tia.

“Many of the res­i­dents have lost so much of their mem­ory they can’t re­mem­ber their words when they try to speak but when I play an old song or hymn they will re­mem­ber ev­ery word and join in. To see the per­son be­hind the de­men­tia is a won­der­ful thing.”

The award has spurred Nia on to com­plete her book next year. She added: “Re­ally there needs to be more re­search into the ther­a­peu­tic qual­i­ties of mu­sic.

“I have com­pleted aca­demic pa­pers in Welsh but the book will be in English. Through it I hope to share good prac­tice and spread the word na­tion­ally.”

Bryn Seiont Newydd, run by the arts loving care or­gan­i­sa­tion, Pen­dine Park, has a mu­sic room com­plete with mini grand pi­ano and Nia has taken full ad­van­tage of it, of­fer­ing it to mu­sic groups in re­turn for giv­ing res­i­dents a con­cert.

Home man­ager San­dra Evans said staff were thrilled for her: “By the na­ture of their ill­nesses, the mem­ory span of most of our res­i­dents is short and some can no longer com­mu­ni­cate. But when Nia plays, their faces light up and you just know in that mo­ment they can ‘feel’ and sense en­joy­ment.”

Nia fits writ­ing in be­tween work­ing at the nurs­ing home and lately be­com­ing part of Gwynedd Coun­cil’s ‘Me­mories through Mu­sic – Con­nect­ing Gen­er­a­tions’ scheme in which she leads mu­sic and song to help tackle lone­li­ness in older peo­ple in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

She has writ­ten songs for well-known Welsh bands and was once a run­ner-up in Song for Wales on S4C.

She helped per­suade ● Mario Kreft mu­sic leg­end Leonard Cohen to al­low a Welsh ver­sion of his song Hal­lelu­jah which wowed judges when the Glanaethwy choir per­formed it on BGT in 2015. She was back on stage to pick up her Wales Care Award. The evening at­tracted sev­eral high-pro­file spon­sors in­clud­ing On­tex Health­care and Barch­ester Jobs. MC was opera singer Wynne Evans, bet­ter known as Gio Com­pario from the Go Com­pare tele­vi­sion ad­verts. Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Fo­rum Wales, said the stan­dard of en­tries was ex­tremely high. He added: “There are only win­ners here tonight so it is only fit­ting that the fi­nal­ists will re­ceive a gold, sil­ver or bronze Wales Care Award. “I trust that they will con­tinue to in­spire those around them as role mod­els and en­cour­age oth­ers to as­pire to even greater heights in the months and years to come. “This awards cer­e­mony is our op­por­tu­nity to pay trib­ute and to cel­e­brate the tal­ent and com­mit­ment that is im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple through­out Wales. “We take our hats off to them.”

Nia Davies-Wil­liams

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