Singing Improves Appetite!

23 Apr 2014

Slough Borough Council Public Heath & Wellbeing Trial Proves

‘Nutritional Health Benefits of Therapeutic Singing for People with Dementia’ Including One Unexpected Benefit – Increased Appetite

Project demonstrated long-term positive changes in appetite, mood, behaviour, social interaction and wellbeing of care home residents participating in regular singing sessions

The UK registered charity, Sing For Your Life has released the findings of a joint six month research study with the Public Health & Wellbeing Department at Slough Borough Council into the benefits of therapeutic singing for people living with dementia in six of the boroughs dementia care homes.

Whilst previous trials in Kent have demonstrated mood enhancement and increased cognitive awareness, the Slough trial is the first to report the increased appetites and the related nutritional wellbeing of residents participating in structured singing sessions.

Dr. Onteeru Buchi Reddy, Public Health Director for Slough identified the unexpected benefit of increased appetite. “We check the weight of our residents regularly because malnutrition is a major problem for older people. They lack the motivation to eat healthily. We have now found that over a period of months those who sing regularly have put on weight. We think this is due to their being more active and alert. We are very pleased with this additional outcome.”

Using the Silver Song Music Box systems developed by Sing For Your Live, the trial, which was led by Pip Collings, Nutrition Lead for the Public Health & Wellbeing department at Slough Borough Council, provided residents at six care homes specialising in dementia care with participatory singing sessions. The results of the trial were significant and in addition to increased appetite, presented improved mood, general health and interaction in residents.

“We saw very positive results from the six month trial. After repeated guided singing sessions there were real improvements in the emotional wellbeing of residents in addition to their increased nutritional intake,” explained Pip Collings, Nutrition Lead for the Public Health & Wellbeing Department at Slough Borough Council.

“Over the longer term, regular Silver Song Club Music Box session have resulted in the participating residents putting on weight and benefiting emotionally and physically from the nutrition they had started to lack through their declining diet,” continued Pip Collings.

Key highlights of the Slough Borough Council Public Health & Wellbeing Silver Song Club Music Box trial:

·         Appetites of those regularly participating in guided singing sessions increased, partly the result of lifted mood, but also increased movement, however slight, that accompanied the singing which fuelled hunger

·         Levels of challenging behaviour were reduced, not just during the singing sessions, but in general

·         Reminiscence helped patients to reconnect with personal memories and hobbies, raising mood and communication. Punjabi songs were added to the song book to support the high number of Asian residents

·         A noticeable improvement in the mood and wellbeing of the patients and their interaction with other residents, staff and visitors to the ward

·         Engagement between staff and patients noticeably enhanced and communications improved

The daily structured singing sessions set up in the six residential homes across Slough were part of the borough’s Lottery funded, Change4Life programme.

Test control proves success

For the six month duration, only three of the homes were able to maintain the sessions and the difference in results was noticeable. Where the sessions were regularly hosted, sometimes up to three times a day, the resident’s nutritional intake increased significantly and the ladies and gentlemen noticeably put on weight, suffered from less urinary and other illnesses linked to dehydration and a lacking diet.

The residents also demonstrated improved mood, less aggressive behaviour traits and an enriched interest in the world around them. This was major for those whom had previously been ‘locked’ in.

In the care homes where there were organisational reasons why the guided singing sessions could not take place on a structured basis there were none of these benefits reported.

Therapeutic singing sessions for dementia residents now to be set up borough wide

There are plans to set up a borough wide programme of therapeutic Silver Song Club singing sessions in all Slough residential homes that focus on elderly and dementia care. Already, Slough Borough Council has purchased 10 systems under the Change4Life initiative, which have been installed and are in regular use.

“We have evidence enough from the Sing For Your Life trial that structured singing sessions definitely benefits residents, not just with dementia, but other cognitive impairments, in our care homes,” explained Pip Collings. “Our carers and the families visiting their loved ones have also reported that they are enjoying a happier relationship with residents since the singing sessions began, so we certainly won’t be stopping them!”

Making Silver Song Boxes work for Slough

Slough, which is 20 miles from central London, has a large Asian community and to support reminiscence, some Punjabi folk songs have been added to the song book repertoire.  Sing For Your Life is looking to extend its portfolio of foreign language songs to address the UK’s diverse aging population.