Grandmother with dementia finds voice with Remembrance Sunday hymn

An 87-year-old with dementia found her voice by remembering the words from the patriotic hymm, '˜I Vow to Thee, My Country'.

Monday, 12th November 2018, 3:12 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 3:16 pm

Grandmother Pat French was with her caregiver Barbara Marchant from Home Instead Senior Care, Bedford when she broke into emotional song, having been reminded that Remembrance Sunday was coming up this weekend.

Pat was a little girl during the Second World War and says she can still ‘remember clearly’ the air raid sirens and how frightened she felt. When Barbara reminded her about Remembrance Sunday coming up, she smiled and said: “That was a very happy time.”

Barbara, who lost her own mum to dementia, said: “To see Pat start singing the hymm was incredibly moving and very emotional, showing the true impact music has on helping recall memories and feelings from the past.

Pat French

“Dementia is a cruel, cruel disease, both to the person and to their family. I have seen dementia rob Pat of so much which is why it’s so joyous that music can help lift her – it means I can see a little bit of the ‘old her’. We love singing together and she lights up when she sings which just melts my heart.

Pat is one of around 100,000 people in the UK living with dementia with Lewys bodies, the third most common cause of dementia in the UK. The condition causes common dementia type symptoms including problems with memory and thinking skills.

Home Instead Senior Care, a home care provider specialising in dementia care, recently launched #SongsToRemember – a campaign raising awareness of the therapeutic benefits of music for people living with dementia.

Research has shown that memories of old songs activate very specific areas of the brain, which seem to be particularly resistant to the damaging effects of the disease.

Pat’s daughter Emma Muncaster, a full-time nurse said: “Although she can’t often remember who I am, she can remember all of the words to her favourite songs which is incredible.

“Music calms mum down when she is agitated, and she sings along for ages. She used to be in a choral society and so singing takes her back to those happy times and we treasure the happy moments singing along with her.”