Personal and professional benefits for students through dementia charity training

Mon, 25 Nov 2019 16:19:00 GMT
Sarah is keen to encourage others to get involved with Playlist For Life's online training
Sarah is keen to encourage others to get involved with Playlist For Life's online training

Occupational Therapy students at GCU have taken part in innovative training with a Scottish charity and are keen to encourage others to reap the rewards that they have benefitted from. 

Music and dementia charity, Playlist for Life provide a unique, personal music playlist for those living with dementia – to help bring back positive memories and allow them to connect with their families once again. 

GCU lecturer Leona McQuaid initially came up with the idea to get students involved with the charity – whose founder, Dr Sally Magnusson, already has links to the University through the Magnusson Awards. 

Leona was keen to see Occupational Therapy students benefit from training around thinitiative – all from the comfort of their own home. 

We spoke with Undergraduate third year student Sarah Alderson, to find out more about her experience and how the training helped prepare her for future – both in terms of work and with her own family: 

How did you first hear about this opportunity? 

saw on Blackboard that there was the opportunity to do free training and I just thought I’d give it a go. The good thing is that it really wasn’time consuming - I was able to do it over a couple of hours and took a lot away from it as well. It was thought provoking and straightforward, so it was nice thing to get involved in.” 

Why did you personally want to take part in the training? 

Although it’s not specific to occupational therapy, it has a lot of the same values that relate to our subject. We’re all going to have to look after older adults in the future because of an ageing population – which means dementia will become more and more prevalent.  

The first placement I completed this year was in a care home, which had a lot of people suffering from dementia. I’d had lots of plans around things we could do but then none of them were able to leave their rooms because of the pandemic.  

I wish I’d had this experience before this placement because it would have provided me with the knowledge and skills to help deal with this. This definitely impacted on me wanting to get involved with the training because I wanted to know more about what to do one on one with a resident. 

What was involved with the training? 

“There were seven online lessons on their page and you listen to stories around people who have already completed the training and benefitted from it. We also watched videos to see how the charity impacts on those suffering with dementia.  

There was one story which particularly stuck with me. A gentleman had went into the care home and wasn’t eating or getting involved in anything – he was really deteriorating. Then they started playing music through Playlist for Life and it completely changed him. He was speaking more and signing along to the songs that he remembered. It provided him and his wife with that connection again – something they hadn’t had for a long time. I was in floods of tears! It was really engaging that way because you were actually seeing the personal experiences of these people rather than just reading about it.  

They were also talking about the use of medication decreasing in certain care homes. Sometimes, if a resident is getting showered or dressed they can become quite distressed but they started using the playlists and it really helped calm them down. I just think the fact you can reduce medication through music is absolutely fantastic! 

The training also gave you tips and tricks around being a detective to find out music that resonated with certain individualsObviously a lot of people don’t have family, so this was a way to provide you with information to help get past that. It’s not just music – there’s things like advert jingles and there was even a story about someone who got perked up by the Coronation Street theme tune!” 

How much do you feel this experience has benefitted you both professionally and personally? 

Having these skills in my back pocket and knowing the difference this can make will definitely be something that I can benefit from in the future. This experience has been so helpful, I just wish I’d got it earlier so it could have helped me with the placement I discussed earlier – it would definitely have made it a more fulfilling experience for myself and the residents. 

On a personal level, I’ve got an aunt who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. I’m now working with my mum to pass my knowledge on from this training to create a playlist for my aunt. I think we all probably know someone with dementia, so it’s just a really important thing to have knowledge about.” 

What would your message be to other students thinking of getting involved? 

“Just do it – you’d be wild not to! I completely appreciate everyone is busy but it literally only takes a couple of hours and you don’t even need to do it all at once.  

It’s really educational but also affirming knowing something so simple can make such a big difference to people. The fact that it’s proven in care homes to reduce the need for medication really shows how valuable it is.  

I would also say that it’s not just for health students, I would actually highly recommend it for anyone who’s going to be working with people in the future. Don’t think about getting involved, just do it and crack on!” 

Feeling inspired? Learn more about Playlist For Life Training today. 

By Ross Clark      
Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email or connect with me on Twitter