A few weeks ago, I attended a two-day drumming course, delivered by the inspirational Ray Watters. Ray is a drummer and a person-centred counsellor. He has the perfect mix of skills for working therapeutically with people with dementia and family carers.

Ray is the founder of Drum with Us. He runs workshops throughout the UK for a wide range of participants, including people with disabilities and mental health difficulties.

Ray has worked with a number of dementia support groups that I’m involved with, delivering participatory drumming workshops, enabling communication without words, encouraging expression of emotions and creating fun and enjoyment.

These sessions always generate a positive response. This was the reaction of one family carer, following a recent workshop:

“We loved, loved, loved the drumming last night. We talked about it all the way home, and again today at the carers’ coffee morning. We would like to do it again. It has put us all on a high. Jim loved it too, he was captivated all the way through. Thank you so much and please give our appreciation to the drummer”

The training weekend that I attended was a ‘Rhythm2Recovery’ (R2R) course. Ray is a R2R trainer and the particular course that appealed to me was the R2R Therapeutic Rhythm Workshop This course equips learners to use drums and percussion instruments to strengthen therapeutic connections and explore the nature of relationships by means of rhythm exercises.

The participants on the course were from a range of backgrounds. The publicity made it clear that ‘no previous drumming experience was necessary’ and this statement gave me the confidence to register. There were several people there, like me, who were not musicians; their motivation to attend was borne out of professional caregiving interest. Ray’s inclusive approach made us all feel at home, and ‘held’ safely. The professional musicians brought their craft knowledge to the course in a much-appreciated way and those of us with therapeutic experiences contributed our knowledge and expertise too. The mix worked well, everyone felt that they could learn from each other.

The course was enriching, challenging, refreshing and hopeful. I learned new skills, gathered resources to add to my kitbag and met some lovely people doing fascinating work.

Rhythm2Recovery was established by Simon Faulkner. There is a strong evidence-base for the model, which combines experiential rhythmic music with cognitive reflection, bringing about positive psychological and physiological outcomes.

The R2R approach is described in detail in Simon’s practical guide ‘Rhythm to Recover’ and a number of other publications articulate the application of the approach in practice.

I am keen to learn about other projects using drumming and percussion to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia.

I met, today, with Lynn Kay from ‘Beat It Percussion’ who is pioneering ‘Drumming Together’ sessions with older people and people with dementia, based on the ‘Adjusting to Change’* model. Lynn plans to develop a ‘train the trainer’ programme for workshop leaders in the near future. Find out more about her work here.

Please let me know if you have experience of similar projects and approaches. You can contact me at barbara@liftedcare.com

*The ‘Adjusting to Change’ model was developed in the Netherlands by Professor Rose-Marie Dröes and is known in the Netherlands as the ‘Adaptation-Coping Model’. This model underpins the ‘Meeting Centres Support Programme UK’  which is the result of the MEETINGDEM study led by Professor Dawn Brooker at the Association for Dementia Studies at Worcester University.

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