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… Tracey Carter

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 time we're speaking with Tracey Carter, Head of Dementia Care and Wellbeing at Hallmark Luxury Care Homes.

Listen to Tracey's personalised playlist at the end of the feature.

Hi Tracey, thanks for speaking with us. You’re the Head of Dementia Care at Hallmark: a company with 22 care homes across England and Wales. What motivates you in your line of work?

I have worked in the Health and Social Care sector all of my adult life, the last 17+ years of which have been spent working within the dementia community. These have been the most fulfilling and rewarding of all my career, working with people living with dementia, their families and those caring for them has been both a privilege and an honour.

I’ve come to develop a deep sense of compassion, empathy and commitment to advocate for positive change in the lives of those affected by dementia. The main motivating factor is my deep-seated belief that all of us, regardless of age, gender, culture or ‘diagnosis’ have an equal right to live a good life, be free from stigma and discrimination, achieve our full potential, experience enriched relationships and maintain our sense of self and “being”.

Can you tell us about a time you have seen the power of music in action?

My first experience of seeing how music can have a powerful and positive impact on a person is from many years ago when I was doing my Nurse training. I was working on an Older Person’s Acute Psychiatric Admissions Unit and was supporting a lady with a diagnosis of dementia who had been admitted for assessment. She was very withdrawn, sitting away from other people and became very distressed when anyone approached her or tried to offer support. The staff were finding it very difficult to support her and her family were upset and distressed whenever they visited. From a distance I tried singing what I thought may be familiar songs to see if she could recognise them, and when I got to Daisy, Daisy she looked up and began to join in. I’ll never forget that moment of recognition and connection – this enabled me to sit closely to her as we sang the song together and I held her hand. It helped her to relax and us to connect with her, and build a relationship. We found a cassette tape of songs from the same era, and I think playing that for her was transformative. She had a sense of belonging and security, and the team supporting her were able to support her in a much more person-centred manner. It also meant that family visits were much calmer and less distressing for her and her family.

Various Hallmark care homes have recently achieved Playlist for Life certified status. What benefits have you seen for residents and staff since the training?

We’ve seen significant benefits in the implementation of the Playlist method in our homes, and are now embarking on rolling this out across all our homes to help improve the wellbeing of our residents. We saw significant benefits in both physical and psychological wellbeing for our residents, with families also telling us they had seen positive change in their loved one, and that it had helped to develop a new dimension to their ability to connect and stay connected with them too.

Our team reported positive change in many areas, including a reduction of stress and distress, weight gain and stabilisation of healthy weight and a reduction in falls too. It also enabled our team to better connect and engage with our residents on an emotional level, understanding that feelings are key to the basis of building and sustaining meaningful relationships. I think it also emphasised the importance of meaningful moments too, how sharing music can evoke memories and strong emotions and how that can be shared with an individual in each moment.

What’s one thing you do for your own health that you would recommend to others?

Taking time-out and walking my dogs has a great beneficial impact on my mind, body and soul. It’s a chance to re-group, get grounded and focus on the here and now, as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Keeping active is also really important, although I’m not the kind of person who gets ‘step anxiety’ I do make sure that each day I have some time spent being physically active, whether that’s a full days walking adventure or just a short 15 min walk with the dogs, it all helps to maintain my wellbeing.

And finally: what’s on your playlist?

My playlist would be quite diverse and would definitely include the following pieces of music:  

Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)

I was “forced” to learn the piano and guitar by my parents, and have to say I never really enjoyed having to formally learn to play a musical instrument, until I heard and then learnt to play Moonlight Sonata. Every time I hear it, a swell of emotion comes up. It’s so simple yet powerful and emotional and it was the first time I really felt I connected with a piece of music.  

If I Didn’t Care (The Ink Spots)

This was a song my Mum use to love, and the first time I saw my Mum cry was when she listened to this song. They were happy tears but tinged with a hint of sadness. Every time I hear it, I’m back in the moment with my Mum, holding her hand and singing that song with her.

Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)

I’m of the Punk/New Wave generation and Talking Heads were one of the first bands I went to see live (whilst telling my parents I was at a friend’s house for a sleep over!) and this song was the first song they played. It blew my young mind, and I’ve been a fan ever since and many of their songs are a theme tune to my life. Whenever I hear it, I’m back in that small, dark, jumping club believing “this is the future”!

Autobahn (Kraftwerk)

 The first piece of pure electronic music I heard (my older brother played it to me) and I was hooked immediately. It was SO different to what was being played at the time (in 1975), I “borrowed” my brother’s LP, which I still have to this day.

Tilted (Christine and the Queens)

his song was released around the time my first grandchild was born (in 2015), and me and her mother always played it and danced around with her. She LOVES the song and will always ask me “Play Tilted, Nanny” and we still dance around together to it. During covid when we couldn’t be physically together, we use to Facetime and play the song and dance together – always makes me happy, sad and joyous in equal measure.

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