opera

Opera: Can it be used in care?

A number of care homes have opened their doors to the first opera written for the care sector, as reported by the Guardian.

“Six characters in search of an opera”, written by Rachel Barnett is being performed across the South West in care homes, dementia units, day centres and hospices.

The play was commissioned by Davina’s Fund, a charity aiming to bring opera to older people who cannot experience it themselves.

Set up in memory of Camilla Vickers mother, Davina, Camilla saw the effect opera had on her dying mother:

“I could see that my mother felt better, happier, and I, as her carer, did too. It lifted her spirits hugely and there was a lightness to the house again.”

Annie Stevenson, a member of the National Activity Providers Association has commended the play:

“It should be more than bingo or one size fits all activities, and hoping that volunteers come in and do something, which might not be very good. It’s always well intentioned but often activities can be very patronising.

“Professional musicians lift the spirits of the staff as well. They bring so much energy and it’s so powerful for everyone. It’s emotional and can really touch resident’s souls and uplift them. The CQC don’t measure things like that.”

At a particular care home in Dorset (the Old Vicarage), according to the Guardian the audience were said to be enthralled, swaying and conducting with their hands.

The room, full of residents and staff alike was “singing along with smiles on their faces”.

Edna Martin, a 100 year old resident said:

“I really think everyone enjoyed themselves. I used to do a lot of singing, so anything that involves music is up my street. I really have enjoyed this afternoon. It’s been many years since I have been to the opera.”

Although the Old Vicarage proves how successful such activities can be, it is a private care home, and many may not have the resources available to replicate its success.

Jan Millward, the care home’s activity coordinator believes, “There are a lot of people up against it and only have 8p a day to do activities with.”

She’s also called for the CQC to ask more questions and demand better activity provision from homes, “It’s the only way we’re going to get change, because managers really care about their CQC ratings as it effects their bottom line.”

She goes on to say, looking around at all the smiling faces, “This is care at its best, really. The residents are all smiling and happy. That buzz will last, even those with dementia who’ll likely forget the performance, won’t lose how it made them feel.”

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