New choir strikes a chord for people with dementia

Researchers studying the effects of choir on people with Alzheimer’s

A new Saanich-based choir is looking to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by pairing people afflicted by the disease with high school students.

About 50 people gathered on Wednesday to sing at Voices in Motion’s first session in the multipurpose room of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Saanich. The University of Victoria research-based initiative joins high school students in a choir with locals in the early or intermediate stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and their caregivers, to study effect of singing and socialization on those with dementia.

The belief is choirs may reduce health care costs and improve quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers as singing is shown to improve mood, increase energy, reduce stress and support self-esteem. The project will measure the effects of participating in the choir and also relies on a 15-minute social meeting between members after each session.

The plan is to have 60 people in the choir, 20 high school students, 20 people with Alzheimer’s and their 20 respective caregivers. The choir held its first session Jan. 31, and interest is high with 20 keen students from St. Andrew’s Regional School. There are currently 14 dyads (groups of two) with room for four or five more, made up of a caregiver and a person with Alzheimer’s, said Debra Sheets, a UVic associate professor in the School of Nursing and the project’s principal investigator.

“Even when you have Alzheimer’s disease, you need ways to participate in our community and so often caregivers, too, can become socially isolated,” she said.

Led by professional musical director Erica Phare-Bergh, the choir will practice over a 14-week period and culminates with a spring performance. One of the goals is to make the project’s findings available so other organizations can follow suit.

Sheet’s own father suffered dementia and was prone to social isolation.

“What [participants] need to understand is they are part of a research study, this is a most rigorous study looking at the effects of choir participation on people with Alzheimer’s’s disease and their caregivers that’s been done to date,” Sheets said. “Even with Alzheimer’s you may not remember what it was that made you feel happy but that mood persists so the hope is we’re tapping into those parts of the brain, the song and music, that still seem to be working quite well.”

Applicants undergo a 90 to 120-minute intake and are expected to complete five neuropsychological assessments this spring and a minimum of six more next year.

No applicant will be turned away as long as the program is beneficial to them and they aren’t disruptive, Sheets said.

The program is officially known as Voices in Motion: An Intergenerational Community Choir for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and their Caregivers. The research team includes Stuart MacDonald from UVic’s Department of Psychology, Andre Smith from the Department of Sociology and Mary Kennedy of the School of Music.

Interested parties can contact Sheets at 250-721-8595 or dsheets@uvic.ca.

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP seizes more than $16,000 worth of drugs

Suspected cocaine, pills and cash seized from a Greater Victoria home

Emerald Gloves boxing brings fights to Langford

Langford’s Matt Daniels dropped weight for debut

Team Canada to hold junior selection camp in Victoria

22 players from camp will make roster for 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship

U.S. mayor and dying dog’s roadtrip to Victoria goes viral

First vacation in three years came a month after blood cancer diagnosis

Victoria City Council directs staff to proceed with Central Park for new Crystal Pool location

Save-On-Foods Memorial parking lot still up for discussion as a location

VIDEO: Stan Lee leaves posthumous message for his fans

Marvel Comics’ co-creator died on Monday at the age of 95

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 16 to 18

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

Port Alberni convenience store robbed

Police still searching for suspect

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Most Read