Name That Tune for Groups of Persons With Dementia

I have found the game “Name That Tune” is well-suited for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. I’m just offering a few tips if you decide you want to pursue this avenue with a group of more than 15 people.

  • You can’t please everyone. Before you use “Name That Tune” to engage a large group, the best case scenario is that you are familiar with the persons in the audience. This means, you have conducted interviews with them and you are familiar with their favorite songs. If there is a wide age range in the audience, you will definitely find the younger individuals may not be interested. The best way to hold interest is to know the genre that appeals to the audience. If you have, at least, the right musical genre, that music will be sufficient to hold their attention.
  • This is not the time for trial and error. The optimal time to explore music with persons with dementia is when you are working with smaller groups, or with an individual. This is when you can test songs and observe responses. For instance, in the afternoons you want to mitigate agitation and increase peaceful feelings. A song dud may work against that scenario. For larger groups, you may want to bring out what I call “the big guns” or “the tried and true” (You can refer to another post – Of course there are always exceptions, but I’d go to calming songs for the afternoon, and the “safe picks”, for instance:

  • Try to play the song all the way through. Unless an individual is extremely bothered or distressed by the music, play the complete song. Usually persons in the group are enjoying the music, and when it gets cut, they may lose focus. It might enter your mind that they appear sleepy or bored, and you might have the urge to change the song. Try your best to keep the song playing.
  • People will leave. If it is late in the day, for some, it will be time to go home. When one person leaves the group, this will possibly lead to a domino effect. You’ll have more people looking at the clock, wondering when they will be able to leave, and asking when their ride is coming. If you’re lucky, you will have an enthusiastic member in the group. This is the group’s anchor. As long as this person is there, the group will usually remain happy.
  • Some people will come out of their shell. This is the time to encourage these individuals. Call them out, dance with them, or make them the center of attention. Socialization is important, and you are providing them increased social stimulation.
  • Recharge your batteries. Make sure your devices, usually phone and speaker, are recharged. Imagine the buzzkill when the music shuts off. You don’t want to be there.
  • Be aware that people may also get tired of music. Usually a 30-minute session is good. If you can do a one-hour session, that is great. If you can do longer than a one-hour session, that is awesome. However, don’t expect everyone to be engaged for longer than 45 minutes. Also keep in mind that “Name That Tune” is not the best game if the individuals had already done a music-related activity earlier in the day.

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