New choir strikes a chord for people with dementia

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

Registered nurse Sammy Mullally displayed a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., in 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Councillors call on Saanich to address overdose crisis, explore options for safe consumption sites

‘There’s no vaccine for this problem,’ new action is needed, councillors say

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read