Martin Reeves (or Martin the Music Man), our Music Enrichment Leader, returned to Richardson Care homes again in March after the Coronavirus lockdown, performing in the gardens of the homes. Martin sings and plays the guitar and ukulele. He also has a collection of fun percussion instruments (one is shaped like a banana, for instance) and he tailors his activities to the preferences and personalities to the residents in each care home.
His weekly music sessions certainly enrich the lives of the service users (as well as the staff) within the homes, in various different ways.
Martin says: “I have been humbled by the response of service users and staff since I came back. In many cases, it’s as though I’d never been away. It struck me how everyone got straight back into the music. They started requesting songs and singing along immediately. It was incredible.”
Martin’s return was an emotional and uplifting experience for all, and, as you’d expect, people responded in different ways.
Martin continues: “Some of the guys who have learning disabilities just asked for the same songs as usual (Happiness/Michael Row the Boat Ashore/This OId Man etc). They hadn’t forgotten any of the words. The guys at 8 Kingsthorpe Grove are probably the most engaged and the best for sheer enthusiasm. They can sing really loudly and be really joyous.
“Music embeds itself into your psyche. Singing is a different cognitive process to talking, and sometimes, people who sing don’t always talk. This is particularly important for people who have an acquired brain injury and may struggle with memory issues or speech. The words and melodies are entrenched. It’s as though the brain has a separate shelf that it keeps all the music on.”
Music enrichment for adults with learning disabilities and complex needs
At our home in Duston, two young ladies in particular get really involved and are very enthusiastic. Martin says: “Whatever the song, one gives it the full operatic treatment. Another was given a guitar for her birthday, which she plays left handed even though she’s right-handed! One of the reasons is that she can mirror what I’m playing….in her own unique way. She’s also been taking videos and sending them to her Mum. You can see the joy in her and it’s clear the music really brings that out.”
Music enrichment for adults with acquired brain injury
Martin adds: “Playing for the guys at 144 Boughton Green Road is more like playing for a bunch of blokes down the pub. We have a joke and a laugh and there’s a fair bit of heckling and banter. I have worked out what sort of music stimulates them, so I can play more obscure music, such as the Bluetones/Jack Johnson/Divine Comedy/Squeeze…anything that comes into my mind and they really get something out of it. The music takes them out of themselves and gives them a sense of normality. They can relax, have a laugh and be entertained.”
Individual responses to the music
“There are different levels of interest and activity among the service users and if I’m playing outside some of the guys will just listen to the music in their room through the window. It can have a calming and relaxing effect, as well as enhancing their mood.
“I’m very aware of how people respond. Some people respond well to some gentle encouragement and join in, while others need more time. I’m even pleased when people sleep through some of the music sessions as this means that they are completely relaxed.”
Martin concludes: “When I first started coming to Richardson Care over 10 years ago it struck me then how the organisation thinks outside the box to enhance and enrich the lives of people in their care. It’s wonderful to be back. Returning to doing some meaningful activity after lockdown and seeing everyone’s response gave me a real boost. It’s massively rewarding and enriches my life too, giving me a sense of purpose and value. I feel part of the team, but I never forget that I’m a guest in someone else’s home. It’s about creating the right atmosphere, so I’m not pushy at all.”