“I just love to show off”: the effects of a professional participatory music programme on people with dementia and their carers
Music as a form of therapy for people with dementia is a unique and increasingly common intervention, because musical memory tends to remain preserved from the effects of dementia. Recently, arts organisations have developed programming for people with dementia and their carers, and Scottish Opera appears to be the first music organisation to do so in the form of a programme called Memory Spinners. However, little research has been conducted on an ongoing participatory music programme for people with dementia and their carers hosted by a professional arts organisation. This qualitative case study, based on semistructured interviews with four people with dementia and carer couples, explores the ways participants are affected by participating in Memory Spinners, from their perspectives. A thematic analysis of the data uncovered four interrelated themes. The first discusses effects regarding sociality and relationships. However, it was discovered that those with cognitive impairments need an activity, rather than socialisation alone. The second discusses how music was found to be the activity of most value to participants, because the relationship of dementia with musical memory makes it accessible to all. The third discusses how the programme’s professional environment facilitated artistic quality and continued learning. This environment, unrelated to healthcare, also facilitated an environment of equality. Furthermore, the professionalism presented a structure involving working towards a performance, provoking the most influential theme that discusses resulting feelings of achievement, confidence and agency in participants. Ultimately, the effects most important to participants are related to their own identity and personhood, provoking more research that goes beyond observing changes in dementia symptoms. While programmes like Memory Spinners cannot change the reality of those living with dementia, this study finds that they can have positive effects on participants.