Northern Ireland

Sandringham care radio 'priceless' for residents

Christina Wallace with mother Image copyright Sandringham Care home
Image caption Christina Wallace (left) longed her hear her mother's voice after years of living with dementia

It was four years since Christina Wallace had a conversation with her mother, Grace.

She thought that was the last time she would ever hear the 84-year-old speak.

That was until the Sandringham care home in Portadown, where her mother lives, played a special song.

"I didn't even know mum had any feeling for Somewhere over the Rainbow until I saw it myself," she says.

Her mother started to sing as the care home's new in-house radio station, Sandringham Radio, was playing.

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"Mum has been trying to speak, talk and sing along. We haven't really heard mum's voice for about four years until a few Fridays ago.

Image copyright Sandringham care home
Image caption Margaret Allen is one of the residents who love the weekly radio shows

"This is priceless - money doesn't buy this sort of thing."

Christina's mother isn't the only resident to get a kick out of the radio shows.

Ronnie Cooke described himself as a great dancer back in his dancehall days.

He's not wrong, or shy of the spotlight. Ronnie, 76, is the showman of the group when it comes to getting up and dancing his heart out.

Image copyright Sandringham care home
Image caption Ronnie Cooke was taught to dance and was a regular at dancehalls in Belfast

But he warned his heart might also hold his dancing back.

"The music gets me going," he says. "Sometimes it gets me going that much, the ticker is going a wee bit faster than it should."

The idea for a radio station came from Sam Bright, who is the group activity leader for Sandringham care home.

"We had no idea it would take off in the way that it did," he tells BBC News NI.

"Music does something to our residents. The amazing thing about it is that it's music from a long time ago. Some of these residents have dementia but they are able to remember music from 60, 70, 80 years ago."

'A miracle'

Florence Lutton also saw the impact when her mother started to sing.

"This music has brought her really out of herself to singing and trying to talk," she says.

"I'm still emotional, I'm still in shock. It's a miracle, I can't describe it any other way."

Image copyright Sandringham care home
Image caption Residents get together every radio show and take a trip down memory lane

Paul Bartlett, a service manager at the Alzheimer's Society, says use of the music is very effective.

"Music therapy is a wonderful way of getting people to interact, to dance, to sing, to remember songs they haven't heard for a long time, it brings back emotions and memories.

"Anybody who hasn't been to a care home should come in and see one of these sessions because it's very uplifting."

'Music is powerful'

The care home manager, Tracey Palmer, says the best part of the shows are seeing the families happy together.

"People who haven't heard their loved ones voices in years, to see the happiness on their face and trying to connect with them again, I have no words to describe it, it's just amazing."

Image copyright Sandringham Care Home
Image caption Sandringham's radio show is run by volunteer DJs like Helen Gracey (right) and group activity leader Sam Bright (centre)

Sandringham Radio has three programmes each week presented by volunteer DJs.

The shows have proved to be a great success in getting the residents involved in group activity and putting smiles on their faces.

Talk about the power of music.

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