Open Group Music Therapy Sessions With People In The Late Stages Of Dementia On Garner Ward At Bodmin Hospital
by Liz Norman, Music Therapist

I arrived at about 1.30pm, this time everyone was sitting indoors as it was raining outside. Becky and a couple of other members of nursing staff were sitting with the patients in the area at the
top of the ward near the nurses’ station.

There were two or three faces I knew from the previous week and some new people. Everyone was fairly quiet and sitting calmly. They seemed generally to be mildly curious as I got out some instruments.

One lady, a new person, asked me if I knew how to play the guitar and said she knew quite a lot about music. She played the glockenspiel a little while I was setting things out. Everyone listened and clapped when she finished.

I started by playing the guitar a little and began to get a feel for how the group was today. They were much less lively than the previous week. There was an air of contemplation and sadness.

The lady who asked about the guitar was singing; she talked about having to go soon and there being a time for everyone to leave. She empathized with another lady’s sadness about the death of her husband and sang a short song I didn’t know. As she sang she closed her eyes and held her arms crossed over her chest.

Some of the lyrics were about the gates of Zion and heaven waiting, it sounded like a hymn tune.

Another patient, the lady who was very sad about the death of her husband, talked about wanting to go home, she said there was no point trying to make it better because nothing could help. She said she felt trapped and then told Becky she didn’t blame her; she just really wanted to go home.

A gentleman who I hadn’t met before was wandering around, often staying near the group but not sitting down. He picked up the ocean drum and started playing some rhythms; he was tapping and making interesting rhythmic music with his finger movements. Another gentleman was talking about something I didn’t really understand but it was as if he was telling us all some important information.

A lady I met last week was very chatty; she seemed cheerful and told me many of the same things she talked about the previous week. Some of the songs we sang today included ‘Moon River’, which a lady joined in with singing very gently, and ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’, which I sang right at the end. This was the liveliest song and the one that most people joined in with and sang along to.

I felt that many of the people in the group would really, really like to go home, if only it were possible.