Betty's story

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Music therapy has been amazing for Mum, it’s turned a light on that we thought was long gone.  She’s 95 and has always loved music and now it’s being used to help her unlock happy memories and communicate with loved ones.

Music and dancing was a huge part of Mum’s life. She came from a musical household in Ireland and loved to go dancing on a Saturday night at The Buffalo Bar in Camden. That’s where she met my Dad. He was a fiddle player, one of the first to gig in London. He proposed to her on a bench in Regents Park.

My parents married in 1946 just after the war ended and had six children - five girls and a boy. We were poor and at times life was tough but also lots of fun. We were a close knit family.

Dad died aged 76 and Mum was diagnosed with dementia ten years later. She started to forget about things – well don’t we all? But it got worse. She started to get very confused and anxious about things and that’s when the hallucinations started; the man and boy on the stairs, the wild parties next door, all in her head. She was scared and so were we.

Dementia is a cruel disease. It’s taken Mum away and left a hollow shell. I live with her and yet she has no idea who I am. Some days I’m her mother, others her sister, but mostly I’m that nice lady. It breaks my heart.

I moved in with Mum as a full time carer in 2005 which is when she started Nordoff Robbins music therapy at the Raglan Day Centre in Kentish Town.  She cried the first time we put her on the bus but it very quickly became a big part of her life, especially the music therapy. 

Kariina, the Nordoff Robbins therapist, has used music to unlock a part of Mum that I thought was lost forever.  She plays the old Irish tunes that connect with Mum and it takes her right back to when she was younger. She remembers the words and sings; she even gets up to dance.

Nordoff Robbins has brought music back into my mother’s life and it’s through music that we have found a way to remember the good times, have fun and see her in a way that we will always want to remember her.

Music won’t cure her dementia, we know that. But it does make the life she has happier, more fulfilling and gives her a way to communicate with us and the world around her. It’s easy to take music for granted but watching Mum respond to old songs and tunes she has always known highlights how important it really is. Music lights up her life and gives us our Mum back.