Alicia’s father was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia called Posterior Cortical Atrophy when she was 11 years old. Using our resources, Alicia and her mother have tracked down the music from their past, creating a personalised playlist of the songs that bring back cherished memories of her dad whenever they hear it.
What is your personal experience with dementia?
Both of my grandmothers developed dementia when I was very little. We would visit them in their care homes at the weekend and Mum and Dad would share stories about them with me on the drive home. Following Dad’s diagnosis, over time he lost the ability to read, write, drive, and take part in the sports and activities he loved. Alongside my mum and brother, I was a young carer for Dad, and that’s what encouraged me to enter the field of dementia research and to create my YouTube channel.
What did you know about personal music for dementia before building a playlist?
I had heard lots about Playlist for Life and followed the Instagram page when I was setting up my own channel. I knew from personal experience how much music meant to Dad and saw how it could instantly uplift his mood when he was feeling low. I had read a few studies about the power of personal music for dementia but seeing all the evidence in the Playlist for Life resources encouraged me to learn more!
"We listened to the songs as we added them to the playlist and it felt like Dad was there with us."
Tell us about your playlist journey…
I took all the resources over to my mum’s house and we started by reminiscing about Dad. We used the prompts to help us remember all the special moments we shared as a family and the playlist almost created itself! We have always been very musical family, so soundtracking our memories was easy.
Creating the playlist definitely brought us closer together because Mum shared so many wonderful stories about her and Dad when they were younger that I hadn’t heard before. We listened to the songs as we added them to the playlist, and it felt like Dad was there with us. Both Mum and I were amazed by how many songs we managed to think of! Our playlist is 2 hours and 54 minutes long!
Which resource was your favourite to use, and why?
The Get Started leaflet was my favourite because it folds out into a poster with prompts and was a nice way to ease into creating the playlist. Thinking about one song for each prompt felt manageable, and it gave my mum and I the opportunity to share a lot of stories about Dad. Each story or memory would spark another and before we knew it, we had lots of songs written down! I keep the poster on my wall now because I love seeing it when I wake up.
Since we were creating this playlist in memory of Dad, I loved the ‘Important People’ prompt in the Conversation Starters. Mum and I added all the songs that remind us of him and because we had different relationships with Dad and different memories – we had songs from so many decades! We also thought about the important people in Dad’s life, so added songs for them too.
What would you say to someone thinking of creating a personalised playlist for a loved one living with dementia?
Make an event of it! It was such a fun experience to share with someone else and makes the playlist feel even more special when I’m listening to it, because I now have the added memory of spending an amazing afternoon with Mum. Choose a day to sit down with all your favourite CD’s, photos, tapes, newspaper clippings, whatever you can find, and use the resources to create something meaningful to you. You’ll forever have something beautiful to bring you comfort in difficult moments.
My Memory Bump Track
Somewhere Out There – Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram
Dad and I were sat in the car waiting for my nan to finish a hospital appointment, and he suggested we learn this song to keep us busy. It’s a duet, so I would sing Linda’s parts and dad would sing James’s parts.
The more I listen to this song, the more special it becomes because it was something that only he and I shared. I’m always overcome by emotion when I hear it. I feel sadness that I can’t sing with dad anymore, but also a joy that we were able to create a memory so special that I’ll carry it with me forever.