Exactly how common is dementia in Singapore, you might ask, and why is reminiscence therapy so important? According to a nationwide study reported in the Straits Times, one in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore suffer from it, and it’s growing prevalence is a concern, especially when most other countries have a prevalence rate of 5 to 7 per cent.
Patients with dementia, a progressive brain disorder, may suffer from memory loss and have difficulty expressing themselves.
In 2012, about 28,000 people in Singapore aged 60 and older had dementia. The number is expected to soar to 80,000 by 2030.
Worryingly, it’s not just a condition for the elderly. Young-onset dementia- used to describe dementia that occurs in patients 65 and below- is also on the rise, according to this report in Today.
An increasingly-popular form of therapy for dementia in the last decade called reminiscence therapy seems to help. Essentially, it involves the discussion of past activities, events and experiences with another person or group of people, usually with the aid of tangible prompts such as photographs, household and other familiar items from the past, music and archive sound recordings.
Reminiscence groups typically involve group meetings in which participants are encouraged to talk about past events at least once a week. Life review typically involves individual sessions, in which the person is guided chronologically through life experiences, encouraged to evaluate them, and may produce a life story book. Family care-givers are increasingly involved in reminiscence therapy.
Reminiscence therapy is one of the most popular psychosocial interventions in dementia care, and is highly rated by staff and participants. From more recent data, the therapy appears to have positive and even lasting results within the elderly community.
At St Andrew’s Nursing Home (Buangkok), some dementia residents have regular sessions where they listen to personalised playlists in a programme called Strike A Note.
It was started earlier this year by Mr Johnson Soh, who previously worked with major music labels Warner Music, MCA Records and American guitar-maker Gibson and is now founder of SanCare Asia, a company which customises personalised music playlists for seniors.
He learnt about how the technique is used in the US, Europe and Australia after his father was diagnosed with dementia.
Johnson programs the music based on patient’s life history and background, according to information gathered from their nurses or family.
According to a report in the Straits Times, the nursing home’s executive director, Ms Winnie Chan, says the music sessions have a positive effect on the residents.
“The nurses who shared the playlist with the residents observed improvements in their behaviour and mood after they go through the music sessions.
“Unlike normal persons with dementia, the residents become calmer, happier and more cooperative with the nurses after listening to the music. There has definitely been a marked improvement in their moods.”
As part of a special report, Men’s Health met with Johnson to see how music therapy works with two of his patients, and to learn how this treatment could help Singaporeans with aged parents suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Watch the video below.
By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore.
Special thanks to Johnson Soh of Sancare Asia, St Andrew’s Nursing Home & the Ambrose family.