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Old films, songs, photographs keeps patients connected: Experts

Experts say old songs, movies and photographs can help boost the mood of those with the condition and allow them to better interact with family members (Photo: WILL OLIVER/AFP via Getty Images).
Experts say old songs, movies and photographs can help boost the mood of those with the condition and allow them to better interact with family members (Photo: WILL OLIVER/AFP via Getty Images).

By Nadeem Badshah

ASIAN families have been urged to use classic Bollywood music, films and family photographs to support loved ones suffering with dementia.

Top music producer Naughty Boy, real name Shahid Khan, has revealed that his mother Zahida was diagnosed with the condition and he plays songs from the 1960s and 1970s to make her happy.

The hitmaker, from Watford in Hertfordshire, said her favourite song is Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein from the 1976 Hindi film Kabhi Kabhie.

People with dementia experience problems with memory loss, movement, mental sharpness, language, judgement and mood.

Experts say old songs, movies and photographs can help boost the mood of those with the condition and allow them to better interact with family members.

Mohammed Rauf, founder and director of charity Meri Yaadain CiC (My Memories) in Bradford, Yorkshire, told Eastern Eye: “I am absolutely certain that we need to connect with people living with dementia in a way that is meaningful and brings a sense of joy or happiness to the individual.

“We all carry happy memories, whether reminiscing about happy experiences or feelings. Music for many people is uplifting, it reminds us of happier feelings and something we can connect with. Who hasn’t been a fan of the melodies of (popular Bollywood singers) Mohammed Rafi, Noor Jahan, Kishore Kumar, Mehdi Hasan, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle?

“Using music and songs can take people back to happier memories and give a sense of relaxation, inspiration and motivation. They don’t need to remember the words, as long as they can feel the connection.”

An estimated 25,000 people from BAME communities are suffering with the condition, but experts believe the figure is higher. Research has shown south Asian people develop dementia more often than white Europeans as they are at a higher risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

And the number of people who will be diagnosed with dementia in the BAME community is predicted to increase seven-fold in the next 20 years in the UK, compared with two-fold in the white British community.

David Truswell, from the Dementia Alliance for Culture and Ethnicity, is the author of Supporting People from Minority and Ethnic Communities Living with Dementia, which is out this month.

He told Eastern Eye: “We know that reminiscing works with music, dances, scenes from particular times and places when people were young. It helps them to remember and gives them a framework to communicate, particularly for people who have lost verbal ability or are unresponsive.

“The clip (of Naughty Boy), it works and cuts across language barriers. You can see people smiling and their mood lifting.

“The challenge is how do you source that stuff? It might be easy to get hold of old records but old photographs of places? Often for first-generation migrants from rural backgrounds a camera was hugely expensive.”

Truswell added that the negative stigma around the condition was shifting among Asian families.

“People simply don’t know what to do and where to get help from. They don’t think about it being dementia, just as ‘getting old’. People underestimate the complexity of dementia with physical health issues.

“The issue of stigma is shifting in the past two to three years, [it was] seen as some kind of negative view in the family. There is still an element of that, but younger people tend to be more fluid.

“It [awareness] is about finding a way you can engage and talk to them in a way that makes sense to them.”

Dave Bell, who works on Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline, said: “Music can be a powerful way to engage with people with dementia. When other avenues of communication have been lost, music can foster connections in a family facing the condition, and can help the person with dementia express feelings and ideas, such as through a smile or even a dance.

“Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline is available for anyone with questions or concerns around dementia. People can contact 0800 888 6678 or email [email protected]

Charities including The Sporting Memories Foundation use old photographs and video footage of football games to support people with dementia.

Tim McLachlan, operations director at Alzheimer’s Society, said listening to music and watching classic sporting matches can help recall memories and maintain a sense of identity for those living with dementia.

He added: “Through our Singing for the Brain sessions, we know that many people with dementia are still able to enjoy music and can sing, even when they start to lose their language abilities. There is evidence that music can improve someone’s mood and wellbeing, as well as being a powerful prompt for memories.

“Dementia is a life-changing condition, but it is so important to still include people with dementia in social activities. No one should have to face it alone.

“Until the day we find a cure, Alzheimer’s Society wants everyone to feel supported to live well with dementia.”