During the first weeks of March 2020, members of The Memory Choir in Andover and Romsey were having fun filled weekly rehearsals for their upcoming public performance for ‘Andover Rocks ‘ on 4th April 2020. Andover Rocks is an annual music event that raises money for various local organisations. The event was instrumental in supporting me in starting The Memory Choir in Andover. There were to be between 30 and 40 members of different branches of The Memory Choir merging together for one fabulous and uplifting performance….and then…..COVID-19 put a stop to our exciting plans.
At the time, there were five Memory Choirs running in Andover, Romsey and Winchester. As a result of the escalation of concerns and particular risks to the older members of society, decisions were made to stop all non-essential visits to Nursing Homes, and I had to make a very sad decision to postpone all Community Memory Choir sessions. Of course this had to be done for the safety of all choir members, but so sad that before my eyes, the TMC members were having all their social contact taken away, not just their Choir sessions, but all their community groups that keep people with Dementia and their loved ones, connected to the outside world.
The biggest struggle for me, was knowing this and feeling quite frustrated there appeared to be nothing we could do to stop the gradual disintegration of community connection, but I felt that there had to be a way to take the edge of this social isolation, that although completely necessary, was nevertheless devastating for those living with Dementia.
Now my IT skills are pretty rubbish, but my head is full of ideas. Through technology we must be able to create a virtual Memory Choir. We put people on the moon right? so why can’t technology put TMC on the TV screen of a nursing home or in a Memory Choir members home, and I coach them through their choir session, where they can interact with each other, and I will just be doing what I do on the screen instead of face to face with them.
The next challenge was to think how this might actually happen. At the time of writing this Blog, I haven’t yet launched The Virtual Memory Choir, but experimenting with another Community Choir I run called Sing Heart and Soul. They are my guinea pigs for the forthcoming weekend, and if it goes well, the first Virtual Memory Choir will be happening before March is over.
I have remained in touch with choir members to see how they are, and mentioned about my little plan to keep connected with them, and to enable them to keep singing as a group. Singing makes choir members feel connected to each other, and gives them such an emotional lift and respite from the challenges that Dementia throws at them on a daily basis.
A choir session can bring such beautiful moments between loved ones, and just for that hour, gives them, their spouse, partner, family member or friend back to them for a while.
COVID-19 cannot be allowed to destroy the social connectivity of anyone, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, and being locked away in their home, as well as their minds being locked away from the world because of Dementia. For that reason we need to do what we can to let them know they are being thought about and that people care.