Nordoff Robbins supports Carers Week

At Nordoff Robbins, we are committed to supporting the carers of people we provide music therapy too, and we believe it can positively influence carers lives too.

Carers Week is back with us this week until 13 June. If you’d like to find more information and see how you can support, there are many resources and activities available on the Carers Week website here. This week brings us together to ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued’ and at Nordoff Robbins, we are committed to supporting the carers of people we provide music therapy too, and we believe it can positively influence carers lives too.

Our music therapist Jo Humphreys shares her experience on the relationship between carers and music therapy and the benefits it brings;

As a music therapist at Nordoff Robbins, I get to meet extraordinary people all the time. I don’t just mean the people I see directly for music therapy, but the wider networks of family members, partners and friends who support them to access and attend sessions, many of whom are unpaid carers.

Whether it’s a spouse supporting their partner to have their guitar ready for our weekly Zoom session, a friend driving from another county to bring their friend to music therapy at the hospital where I work, or a parent telling me they’ve had fun singing a song from our sessions with their child during the week; the care, strength and love I am privileged to witness on a daily basis through these relationships remains a constant source of admiration for me.

“Despite the essential nature of their roles, and the immense challenges that come with supporting someone else, unpaid carers themselves may lack the support they need to continue to do what they do, which is why campaigns such as Carers Week are so important for recognising the remarkable contribution they make to society and why we at Nordoff Robbins are committed to listening to, working with and supporting carers in music therapy.”

How music therapy can help carers

Sometimes, involving carers in music therapy sessions is a vital part of the work and our aim may be to facilitate time spent with a loved one, strengthening relationships, encouraging communication and allowing a different kind of interaction outside of the caring dynamic which can be both worthwhile in the moment and also outside of sessions. As well as the endless love demonstrated by the carers I meet, this is often coupled with a strong sense of advocacy and action to ensure their loved one has access to the appropriate support they need.

We’ve spent the last year or so adapting our services so that we can continue supporting people musically throughout the pandemic in different ways. This has of course brought with it challenges, but also some unexpected opportunities which we have been keen to embrace. One of these advantages has been the inclusion of carers who ordinarily might not have an opportunity to be with or see their loved ones in music therapy. Whilst we have relied on carers enormously, not only to set up and manage the technical side of delivering music therapy online (a considerable challenge in itself!) but also in supporting their loved one to participate and providing them with the best possible means to do so; carers have themselves been able to engage with music therapy in new ways.

Gary and Matthew’s Story

I recently had the pleasure of joining an online session with one of my colleagues, Lydia Mellor, who provides music therapy at Headway Cardiff, an organisation which supports people with acquired brain injuries across South East Wales, where I was introduced to father and son duo, Gary and Matthew. Both are committed music fans and they were keen to share their knowledge of the music they love, telling me about gigs they had been to and inviting me to join them in singing some of their favourite songs whilst Lydia accompanied us at the piano. I was struck by the warmth and the sheer enjoyment of this shared interaction, despite us all being in our own homes, and they both told me what a highlight of the week it was for them.

Gary reflects on what music therapy has offered both Matthew and himself by saying:

“I have always thought Matthew has got a lot out of his music therapy sessions when they were face to face. Since the Covid-19 restrictions, Matthew has continued his music therapy sessions with Lydia through Zoom. He also attends the Headway singing group also on Zoom.

Because of Matthew’s physical and cognitive problems I have joined him on these sessions. As Matthew’s carer, besides being his father, I have seen close up how much he enjoys his sessions with Lydia. It also helps with his short-term memory problems. He remembers songs and lyrics, when he can’t remember what day it is. During his one to one session with Lydia, they have written a couple of songs together and it was lovely for me to join in and appreciate how important music is to Matthew. It has got myself and Matthew discussing what songs to sing, what music we each like and what lyrics mean to us both.

Finally, I have enjoyed being alongside Matthew during the singing group as well, including singing along to different songs and genres, many of which I would not have imagined singing. So it has been educational for me as much as Matthew. I will definitely miss attending these sessions if and when they finish.”

The strain the pandemic has added to the lives of those with caring responsibilities has been enormous. Worrying about a clinically vulnerable family member, being unable to access the levels of support needed, navigating home education and having to shield at home for months on end has been the reality for many unpaid carers across the country. Through continuing to consider, value and include carers in our music therapy sessions, we hope to lessen this strain by offering an expressive outlet, a chance to share in something creative or a moment of joy, however brief this may be.

Musical resources you get can involved with at home

 We have created musical resources and activities aimed at people of all ages and abilities to use whilst at home. These range from our fully accessible Online Choir, Singalongs with a music therapist to the Online Afternoon Adult Group for people with disabilities, find out more about our musical resources here.