Toolkit: Start a Chorus

Dementia-Friendly Environment

Creating a Dementia-Friendly Environment

Integrating people with progressive dementia into an artistic, learning environment is a challenge but well worth the time and effort. Designing purposeful singing and voice work that replaces frustration and confusion with structure and repetition is the hallmark of Giving Voice.

Singers in early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s have varying cognitive strengths that can be accommodated. For example, in the early or mild stage of the disease, people may struggle to remember details, find words, or complete complex tasks. When engaging with people in this stage of dementia, it is important to speak directly, calmly, and slowly and keep instruction clear, simple, and positive. During this stage, people need reminders and permission to make errors and forget the small stuff.

In moderate stages of the disease, people experience deepening confusion and frustration, changes in mobility and coordination, mood swings and increasing difficulty with stress and change. People at this stage need to feel safe and supported. Allowing them to open up emotionally through music memory is a great way to ease anxiety and increase engagement and enjoyment.

Some additional tips and guidance from the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Call people by name
  • Respond with patience
  • Take time to laugh
  • Avoid correcting or arguing
  • Focus on feelings, not facts
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Provide assurance
  • Give visual clues – point, demonstrate, and touch (when given permission)
  • Reintroduce yourself and others
  • Take a break when agitation occurs

Mayo Clinic: Alzheimer’s Disease Stages

Tips for Successful Communication at All Stages of Alzheimer’s

Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect of Vulnerable Adults

It’s important to remember that people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are particularly vulnerable to physical, emotional, financial, and other forms of abuse. In addition to ensuring that no employees or volunteers engage in abuse, a host organization may have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse of participants in the chorus program. You should consult with an attorney to find out more about your organization’s responsibilities under applicable laws. Information is also available on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

Sharing of Personal Information

Be sure to create a safe, confidential environment for singers. Any information shared by singers during rehearsals or performances is considered confidential and should be safeguarded. The chorus is a place of trust and respect—consider a privacy policy that is communicated to all singers, staff and volunteers.