The power of music at a distance

Embrace Netherlands has made the Music and Dementia program coronaproof. We still conduct the Music and Dementia workshops live under strict RIVM rules. However, it is also possible to participate in the workshop online via iPad or another screen.

Embrace musicians Karen Langendonk and Manja Smits gave four sessions to residents of Verzorgd wonen Bos- en Meerzicht in Oudemirdum last summer. The musicians did not physically stay in a room with the people, but connected with the participants through the screen. With live music, of course.

Getting used to the screen

That was exciting at first, says flutist and singer Karen Langendonk: “We were quite nervous, would we be able to make it live enough? It went surprisingly well. The participants had to get used to the screen. But it created a nice atmosphere, with a lot of interaction with us and between the participants themselves. That is very nice to experience.”

The role of the caregiver

Of course, it is different from when you are actually “live” together. Harpist Manja Smits: “You can’t touch people because there’s a screen between them. Therefore, in addition to a maximum of two participants, there is always a care worker involved. Her role is very important. Actually, she takes over our role a bit. She grabs a hand, hands out a musical instrument or baton and encourages people to join in. It is important that the care worker dares to take that role as well.”


The preparations were also slightly different from a normal workshop. Karen: “We put a lot of time into that. We started a bit more from a repertoire of approachable classical music and used less improvisation than usual. Beforehand, we also had a preparatory talk with the care worker. In it we talked through everything and told them what was needed, in terms of content, setting and digital connection, to make the workshop as successful as possible.”

Really worth it

When a live workshop is not possible, an online workshop is definitely worthwhile, the Embrace musicians conclude. Karen: “Even though it’s music at a distance you really pull people into the moment for a moment. They liven up, respond to each other, connect, and enjoy the music, which is so beautiful to see.” Manja: “Especially now in times of corona contacts become more sparse, music can do so much. And so, with some adjustments, it can also be done remotely. Although of course we all look forward to the moment when everything can be live again, close to the people.”

Are you a family caregiver or a care worker working with people with dementia and interested in the Music and Dementia Online Program? If so, please feel free to contact us.

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