There’s a care home, just around the corner from my flat that I visit roughly once a month. I really like this care home – it’s got really high staff ratios, it feels like a home (rather than an institution) and the staff treat all the residents with friendliness and respect. There’s a mixture of people here, but mainly people are here either because they have advanced dementia, or because their physical infirmities have become too severe to cope with in their own homes. I had a wonderful time singing there in April with Mrs. D. This isn’t unusual – she lives with dementia, is sweet natured, smiles and conducts, claps and taps along to the music, and I’ve been visiting the place for 6 months or more.
But I have never heard her voice.
Until that wonderful day in April. When I arrived she seemed radiant – the care worker explained afterwards she had, unusually, allowed the hair dresser to wash and set her hair. And she danced as I began to play, and then sat and sang along with most of the songs, commenting on them as we went, with various levels of lucidity. We finished with a hymn, and as I was putting away my guitar she came and sat next to me and explained that this hymn was important and meaningful, and had had meaning for her.