‘Sometimes something happens that amazes you’

Jetske Anema’s mother participated in the Embrace program Music and Dementia. The musical gatherings visibly pleased her mother, which made her curious. So she did not hesitate when she was allowed to join the special training for healthcare workers. During this training, she learned how to connect with vulnerable people through music. This provided special experiences and beautiful moments. Even in corona time.

She is a seasoned musician; for years she has played accordion for companies and at the folk dance club. The Music and Dementia training opened up a whole new world for her. Jetske: “I was used to ‘performing.’ Now it was mainly about connecting through music, and then also with vulnerable people.” You can make that contact by inviting people to join you, she learned. This can be done by giving people a simple musical instrument or a baton. Jetske: “Making music together gives people a sense of belonging, of being part of a greater whole. I also learned that it is important to give people focused attention, for example through eye contact or by holding a hand.”

‘The very best gig ever
Together with volunteer and keyboardist Marten Hiemstra (keyboard), Jetske organized a music session with residents of her mother’s housing unit.
Because of corona with necessary safety precautions, including wearing a mouth mask. Jetske: “I had purchased some simple (percussion) instruments to hand out. We started with a four-quarter beat, which is fairly easy to hook into in terms of rhythm. To my surprise, it actually caught on right away, people enthusiastically joined in and livened up. Marten later said to me, ‘This is really the very best gig I’ve ever done.”

Sometimes something suddenly happens
On the outside sometimes you can’t immediately see what music does to someone. Some people react more quietly or seemingly not at all. And sometimes something suddenly happens that amazes you. As with a gentleman with Parkinson’s who was also sitting in the living room. Jetske: “This gentleman could no longer shave himself; a care worker was there to help him with that. While I was playing the accordion and the other residents were humming along, I suddenly noticed that gentleman turned on his razor up to three times and started shaving himself. The care worker was perplexed and ran to the hallway to tell her colleagues what happened. They didn’t know what they were seeing.”

How can such a thing be explained? Music does something to your brain, says Jetske: “Compare it to going for a long walk. While walking, sometimes things just pop up, things that didn’t seem to be there before. The skill of shaving was still in that gentleman’s brain. And through the music that came up again.”

Jetske makes music with her mother.

Making music online
Jetske also makes music with her mother. And when corona prevents her from visiting, she does so through the screen. Jetske: “My mother (89 years old) had corona herself, fortunately she came through it well. In those days we made music together online. I play accordion and she claps. It is a bit more difficult to make contact through the screen, I have to do more to get her attention. But it is very nice to be able to do more than just talk together during such video contact. Making music together gives so much pleasure. That does her very well, and myself as well.”

Jetske organizes the sessions in consultation with healthcare: sometimes at her initiative and sometimes at the initiative of healthcare. Jetske: “Care sometimes calls when my mother is restless. Making music together makes her feel better and calmer. That is nice for my mother and of course also for the care workers.”


Are you a caregiver or care worker and want to make vulnerable people happy with music, even in this day and age? Maybe the Online Inspiration Sessions for caregivers and family caregivers are for you.