Blog: Music and reminiscing at Brookmount
Emma Graham took up the post of Activity Co-ordinator at Brookmount Nursing Home in Coleraine during the summer. Here she blogs about her first few months in the role, the importance of getting to know residents on a personal level and the activities that have proved most successful.
Before this job, I worked in community mental health, running different therapy groups promoting positive mental well-being which included creative writing, dance and arts and crafts. I had expected to run groups in a similar capacity at Brookmount but realised quickly that the capabilities and needs of residents differed significantly.
The most important part of my role initially was getting to know each of the residents. Not just their names or room numbers, but actually getting to know each person. I spent my first few weeks learning about the interests of each resident, hearing their life stories, finding out where they grew up, being invited into their lives and their families’ lives too.
Many of the activities I organise with residents have an emphasis on reminiscing. Sharing old photos of Coleraine or other stimuli helps the residents open up and share their memories with me. I love this part of my job; hearing residents’ stories about their dance hall days or how they knitted socks for the men at war. I feel privileged to hear their stories. It reminds me that the person in front of me, who may now need help with feeding themselves, has lived a very vivid and colourful life before they came to live here at Brookmount.
Some residents no longer have the same capacity to communicate but I’ve still found ways of getting to know them. I have watched residents respond and smile when pets have been brought in. I meet regularly with one lady who can’t speak but when we listen and read The Story Orchestra’s Four Seasons together, I can tell that she wants to read it again and again by the way she responds.
Communication is so important and I have learnt that you do not need to use words to be able to build up a relationship with someone. Some residents find it comforting enough to just have you sit beside them. Others simply appreciate a wee wave from you every time you walk past.
Since being at Brookmount, I have organised several performances, including Irish dancers, local country singer Yasmin Walker and MORE performing arts school. Each event brought its own buzz to the home. Residents were able to come together and see each other while enjoying the music or dancing. Family and friends were able to see their loved ones enjoying themselves.
I have found residents respond the greatest to music. One of my favourite moments was seeing residents responding and singing along to older songs being sung by Yasmin. It created an atmosphere where everyone was equal and sharing the love of music together. There was no difference between a resident or a carer when singing the words of Que Sera Sera together. One resident in particular who wouldn’t usually come to these events heard Amazing Grace being sung and came in, as it was his late wife’s favourite song. He sat down with another resident and her family and by the end of the performance they were all laughing and singing together.
I consider it a privilege to work at Brookmount. I have been made to feel welcome not only by the staff and residents, but by the residents’ family and friends too. Brookmount is the type of place where as soon as you are known, you are not forgotten about. Visitors get to know each other. Staff look out for and care for anyone who walks in the door. Residents welcome you into their most precious memories. It is a place where you feel you belong.