Shop now open! Share your love of music and support Playlist for Life. Visit now.

Shop now open! Share your love of music and support Playlist for Life. Visit now.

Five Questions With… Dean McShane

Every fortnight we sit down with a guest working in dementia care to bring you an insight to their role and experience of using meaningful music. This week we speak to Dean McShane, a mental health nurse and Senior Mental Health Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University.

Listen to Dean’s personalised playlist at the end of the feature.

Hi Dean. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. As a mental health nurse and lecturer, what motivates you in your line of work?

Producing kind, caring and compassionate nurses who I would be proud to care for myself or my family. I got into the line of mental health nursing as I wanted to make a difference to people and always had the philosophy of treating everyone how I would want my family to be cared for. I teach that from day one to my student nurses and my proudest moment is cheering them off stage at their graduation knowing I have done all I can to instil that in them.  

You’re also an amazing advocate for personalised playlists in dementia care. How do your students respond to playlists as part of their course? 

I think as soon as our student nurses do the Playlist for Life e-learning they are equipped with the skills to be able to make a difference to people living with dementia (and carers) when they are on clinical placements. We have incredible stories of how students have used music detective skills on wards and in nursing homes, which has such incredible rewards for so many people. Our student nurses created the LJMU Dementia Ambassadors group so that they can spread the word about the power of personalised playlists within the city region. Together we have held stalls and events to many hundreds of people and helped to create personalised playlists along the way. Their passion is infectious, and I am so proud of every student who has become involved.  

Meaningful music can be so powerful, so it’s great to hear the future of dementia care is harnessing it. Tell us about your own experience of using the power of music in dementia care. 

I have been so lucky as a Playlist for Life volunteer to run workshops in dementia cafes, hospital wards, conferences, and training events. I have done hundreds of one-to-one sessions with people living with dementia (and carers) to find the soundtrack to that person’s life. We have a special collaboration with a ‘young onset dementia support group’ in Liverpool and I felt so privileged to help people find the soundtrack to their lives and witness the special memories connected to these songs. Recently I helped an 82-year-old gentleman who was a train driver for 40 years find his soundtrack. We danced, we sang, we spoke of love, music, football, and motorbikes as I watched his face light up every time we played one of his songs. Music is incredible! 

It really is! How do you use music to manage your own mental health? And is there anything else you do that you’d recommend to carers wanting to look after their mental health? 

I have a musical playlist for all moods and all weather. Something that picks me up when I need it, one that adds energy, one that chills me out. But other than music I am very passionate about our wonderful ‘Natural Health Service’. Finding a green space to go walking, be surrounded by nature, trees, water, and hills but being ‘mindful’ and present when there. So, focusing on the bird song, the smells, the wind, the sun on your face whatever it is to just be present and relieve that stress.  

Next time, we’ll be talking to Rohini Sharma Joshi, Age Scotland’s Diversity & Inclusion Manager.

For exclusive access to our Five Questions With series, join our Playlisting Professionals newsletter community here

Dean's personal playlist

Grace – Jeff Buckley

This track reminds me of when I met my now wife 21 years ago (who is called Grace) and she shared my love for Jeff Buckley and many other bands and artists.

Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) – Frank Wilson

This takes me back to our wedding day as it was one of our first dances. I still remember the dance floor being flooded by our friends and family with everyone throwing some dodgy Northern Soul dance moves and having the time of their lives

Descent of the Stiperstones – Half Man Half Biscuit 

This band is from my hometown and there is not much that I see or hear on a daily basis that does not trigger a HMHB line. I have seen them countless times live and they never ever fail to put a smile on my face  

The Boss – James Brown 

One of the best live concerts I have ever seen. His performance, his vocals and his backing band just blew me away. I only have to hear the introduction to most of his tracks and I am taken back to that hot summers day in a dance tent in Leeds in 1998.

A House is not a Motel – Love

I fell in love with Arthur Lee and Love in my teens and Forever Changes is one of my favourite albums of all time. I got to see them live and will never forget when Arthur Lee’s false teeth fell out mid-vocal, to which he just threw them back in and carried on, real rock n’ roll!