A new study has found singing in a choir improved the relationship between someone with dementia and their carer.

Singing in a choir ‘breathed oxygen into the relationship’ of people with dementia and their carers. That’s what new research being presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference claims.

The research looked at 17 couples where one partner had dementia and the other was their main carer.

The benefits of couples taking part in group singing included the pleasure of singing, the friendship and wider social life fostered by membership of a group and being able to take part in an activity as equals. They most benefited when they were learning and performing new material, rather than songs they already knew.

Those with dementia said singing increased their confidence and gave them an identity beyond their diagnosis, while their partners said they felt a sense of liberation and enjoyment and a temporary release from their responsibilities.

Lead author Shreena Unadkat said:

‘Singing groups can provide couples with an opportunity to take part in an activity on an equal basis; something which can be difficult when one partner is the lead carer in outside life.

‘Additionally, couples who learnt or performed new materials reported the greatest benefits, which is interesting considering many dementia therapies are based on reminiscence. This understanding may have implications for psychological therapists’ involvement in dementia care.’

It’s thought that musical memory is one of the last areas to be lost, which is why it can be such an effective way to boost the mood and happiness levels for someone with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society runs dementia singing groups called Singing For The Brain. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Society office to find out if there’s a group near you.