17 August 2016
Music, Care Homes and communities
At Music in Hospitals, we’ve been concerned for a while that some care homes in Wales are a bit like fortresses in their own communities. They’re physically located within towns and villages, but some of them have little to do with the everyday life of the communities where they are located. And so we’ve developed an ambitious project which we’re calling Open for Music (Agor i Gerddoriaeth in Welsh) to help put that right. We want to provide 450 concerts to care homes in Wales, on the condition that those care homes open their concerts to members of their local community as well as their own residents. The project is due to start in 2017 and will run for three years.
Using Music to Strengthen Communities
At the heart of Open for Music is the use of music to help strengthen communities. We hope that the offer of one of our professional-standard, live music concerts will encourage more people from outside care homes to come inside them: to see for themselves the standard of care that is being offered; to socialise with the residents; and to remind themselves how much we all have to learn from older people.
It is now widely recognised that live music has a hugely beneficial effect on the wellbeing of older people in care – especially for those living with dementia, where the benefits are even more pronounced. At Music in Hospitals, we are committed to the very highest quality of musicianship – and so all our musicians are either current or former professional musicians who have been carefully selected through a demanding audition process. With literally hundreds of artists on our books, we can offer the widest possible range of musical styles: classical, opera, jazz, swing, rock, folk; upbeat or calm; instrumental and/or vocal; in English and/or in Welsh.
So the scheme will work like this: once we’ve raised the money for this project, care homes will approach us to order their concert. We’ll agree a date and a style of music; and then we’ll work with that care home to maximise the number of local visitors attending the event. The concert will be absolutely free for the care home – all they have to provide is a cup of tea for their visitors. And then the music can work its magic. We know (from just some of the detailed research we have conducted into the impact our concerts make) that a concert increases socialisation – it gets people talking. So Open for Music concerts will provide the catalyst for lots of new conversations between residents, visitors and care staff – and those conversations will become the building blocks of a renewed and stronger community.
This autumn, we’re running 7 Open for Music concerts so we can confirm that the project has the potential to be as successful as we know it can. Those 7 concerts are already taken; but if you’re a care home who would like to be involved in the main project from 2017 onwards, please get in touch. Or if you have any opinion or thoughts on the whole project, please drop us a line at email@example.com, or give us a ring on 02920 391415.
12 July 2016
Launch of the ICU–hear project in Manchester
Music in Hospitals is launching a new project called ICU-hear jointly with the Manchester Royal Infirmary Intensive Care Unit. Helen Ashley Taylor from the charity’s North committee describes her experience of being an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patient last year and tells how thrilled she is that Music in Hospitals is involved with this new initiative.
Sedation, distressed breathing and sleep deprivation combined with seemingly ever present, dissonant and un-nerving noise. This is often the brutal and disturbing experience for many patients whilst on an intensive care unit. It is well-documented that the environmental noise on the ICU has a long-term physiological and psychological impact on the health of patients. For many patients, often the most critically ill, looking back on their ICU experience after discharge, it is anything but the therapeutic environment it is intended to be. Thanks to the devotion of the medical teams, they have survived, but there is also increasing evidence that recovering their pre illness lives and livelihoods is a completely different matter altogether.
Imagine lying on a bed, unable to move, blink, speak, respond or control your own pain relief. You may just about be conscious and aware of the high levels of activity going on around the bed, around the clock, with regular interventions to assist breathing and checking vital functions. Hearing appears at times to be the only sense that still works. Machines, frequent alarms, phones, bleeps, voices, conversations across your bed, doors banging, trolley wheels squeaking, emergency CT scans, machines to assist breathing – these are just some of the sounds that permeate the mind every minute of every day on an ICU. The noise levels appear amplified at night. Voices sound like constant shouting. Other senses appear to temporarily shut down, whilst the ears appear to tune in and tune up with increased sensitivity to every single sound within an ever-increasing radius. The noise never stops. Sedation, pain, sleeplessness, disturbing noises invoking feelings of panic – on constant repeat – with no means of escape. Imagine this continuing without a pause – for days – or even weeks. It really can be quite torturous.
Any of us could unexpectedly find ourselves in an intensive care unit. Such stays are usually unplanned and generally occur in an emergency. This happened to me last year. After being lucky enough to emerge from the experience, I spent the initial few months expressing my gratitude for still being alive. I proudly declared the incident over to friends, family and work colleagues and attempted to resume normal life again from where it had been parked upon hospital admission. I never anticipated the difficult journey that lay ahead after leaving hospital.
The Intensive Care Society states on its website “admission to intensive care is reserved for seriously ill patients who, by virtue of their condition, require invasive treatments to save their lives”. Thankfully with constant medical advances and research, increasing numbers of critically ill patients are surviving these life-saving interventions. Simultaneously, awareness is increasing of the potential negative long-term physical, cognitive and mental health consequences of ICU stays, which, until recently, have been accepted as necessary trade-offs in order to save a person’s life.
I’ve since learnt that not all former ICU patients survive ‘well’. The startling statistics on difficulties with returning to work within 12 – 24 months for those who previously worked, speak volumes – particularly for any patient who spent a week or longer on an ICU. Those invasive treatments needed to save lives are often inherently stressful for the patient and their loved ones. I discovered for myself that being a patient on the ICU can involve a lengthy period of sustained anxiety. I felt isolated, with no control over anything, no sense of feeling, no means of communication at times, and there was nothing I could do to change the situation or my immediate wellbeing. In my case, the most distressing aspect of all, was the never-ending torturous noise; my acute sense of hearing which has previously been a blessing, now felt like a curse.
At one point I was rushed off on a hospital trolley for an urgent CT scan and angiogram; I was so sedated I thought I was being drowned in a washing machine by the staff (I have since been extremely comforted to learn that my recollection of this noisy experience is a very common one for sedated ICU patients!).
When I wasn’t unconscious, most of what I heard invoked fear and panic. It didn’t end with the hospital discharge. I am still woken in the night by those same frightening noises; my brain struggles to disengage and delete them. For many months after discharge, the sound of a car alarm or a car horn for example, would leave me trembling. I’d never experienced anything like this before. The sounds still play in my head, like a popular tune (but not one I liked!) permanently ‘stuck’ in the mind – but not in a comforting way. It is a tuneless soundtrack to daily life that often leaves feelings of disorientation and displacement. This has played havoc with attempts to resume the same life and livelihood that was being undertaken prior to going into hospital.
There was one moment of hope and relief from the agonising hospital sounds of the ICU that has left me convinced there is a role for high quality music in the care and after-care of critically ill patients. When I was finally moved off the ICU onto the High Dependency Unit, I heard a few minutes of singing – beautiful, harmonious, melodic, organised sound. The calming music temporarily blocked out the unpleasant hospital noise. It brought me into the present – which was both traumatic as the seriousness of my condition became fully apparent, but also comforting. It reminded me I had a life to go back to. My head was filled briefly with thoughts of harmony, peace, order and hope in the midst of an otherwise endlessly terrifying ‘noisy’ ordeal.
Even in the most serious of medical situations, I believe there is the potential for a glimmer of ‘joy’ to be created through live music; this intervention may also create potential for improving rehabilitation for ICU survivors.
I met Natalie Mason, ICU ward sister at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, through attending a support group she runs for former ICU patients. I was delighted to learn of her interest to bring live music to the ICU in conjunction with a new project to reduce stressful noise levels on the ICU. It requires highly skilled, empathetic, trained musicians or music therapists to work in the ICU environment. Thank you to Jess Ingham at Music in Hospitals North for organising the first sessions and for conceiving the project’s name, whilst Sid Richards has designed the project logo. Holly Marland and Martin Bickerton are the first of the charity’s musicians to take part in this exciting new initiative. Music in Hospitals North is also fortunate to have Tineke Bosma, a former ICU ward sister, as Chair of the charity’s North committee.
As ICU mortality rates improve and there is greater focus on patient outcomes such as pain alleviation, discomfort, post-traumatic stress and anxiety, increased research is being carried out on what can be done on the ICU itself not only to enable patients to survive, but to survive ‘well’. As with many diseases and medical conditions, it is important to be able to live well after traumatic experiences. A musical intervention could play a part in this in addition to providing patients and their relatives with a ‘happy memory’ of the intensive care unit – fulfilling that essential part of Music in Hospital’s mission of ‘creating joy through live music’.
The first ICU-hear concert takes place on 29 July 2016 at the Manchester Royal Infirmary Intensive Care Unit.
By Helen Ashley Taylor – Music in Hospitals North committee
Music in Hospitals and Everest at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is an exciting annual event, providing a fantastic opportunity for those with a shared interest in horticulture to come together and enjoy a wonderful day out filled with fresh air, flowers and nature.
Each year at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, I am taken by the wide range of people who come together to celebrate their appreciation of beautiful gardens. It is a hobby which encompasses people of all generations and it is events like RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show that brings them all together to enjoy the talent of those displaying at the event.
However, it’s when I am enjoying happy days out like these that I think of those who have not been fortunate enough to attend due to illness or frailty. Music in Hospitals has worked with people who are isolated by ill health or disabilities for 68 years, so when Everest approached us to create a garden inspired by the work we do, we were delighted!
The garden, designed by David Domoney, has a central round motif which symbolises the soundwaves of our music which bring so much joy to those who experience it.
Music in Hospitals provides over 4,500 live music concerts in all sorts of healthcare venues throughout the UK such as hospitals, hospices, care homes and special schools. Our concerts have amazing therapeutic benefits, including lifting moods and reducing levels of stress, anxiety and depression. However, one of the biggest differences live music can make is that it provides an opportunity for socialising between fellow residents, staff, visiting family members and our musicians, in what can often be a very isolated environment.
Many of those who benefit from our concerts are suffering from dementia, and, while they may not be able to remember their children’s names, many still remember music. This means that they can benefit from the joy brought by our concerts while their loved ones get an opportunity to see them happy and relaxed.
As a charity, Music in Hospitals is dedicated to creating these moments of joy for not just patients, residents and service users, but also for those that care for them. As a small charity, with a very limited budget available to put towards raising awareness, Everest’s support is invaluable to us.
Everest are not only using the Flower Show as a chance to celebrate small charities, but they are also supporting this years’ RHS Celebrity Theatre, which has an incredible line up of knowledgeable TV gardeners who will be sharing their knowledge of gardening, wildlife and nature. So, once you have picked up some top tips from this famous bunch, don’t forget to come over to the charity gardens to celebrate with us how, much like live music, events like this have the power to bring people together.
By Sophie Clarkson – Fundraising Manager at Music in Hospitals