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The Unforgettables: a chorus for people with dementia with their family members and friends

  • Mary Sherman Mittelman (a1) and Panayiota Maria Papayannopoulou (a2)

Summary/abstract

Our experience evaluating a museum program for people with dementia together with their family members demonstrated benefits for all participants. We hypothesized that participation in a chorus would also have positive effects, giving them an opportunity to share a stimulating and social activity that could improve their quality of life. We inaugurated a chorus for people with dementia and their family caregivers in 2011, which rehearses and performs regularly. Each person with dementia must be accompanied by a friend or family member and must commit to attending all rehearsals and the concert that ensues. A pilot study included a structured assessment, take home questionnaires and focus groups. Analyses of pre-post scores were conducted; effect size was quantified using Cohen's d. Results showed that quality of life and communication with the other member of the dyad improved (Effect size: Cohen's d between 0.32 and 0.72) for people with dementia; quality of life, social support, communication and self-esteem improved (d between 0.29 and 0.68) for caregivers. Most participants stated that benefits included belonging to a group, having a normal activity together and learning new skills. Participants attended rehearsals in spite of harsh weather conditions. The chorus has been rehearsing and performing together for more than 6 years and contributing to its costs. Results of this pilot study suggest that people in the early to middle stage of dementia and their family members and friends can enjoy and learn from rehearsing and performing in concerts that also engage the wider community. It is essential to conduct additional larger studies of the benefits of participating in a chorus, which may include improved quality of life and social support for all, and reduced cognitive decline among people with dementia.

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