Mauricio’s Love of Music Helps Him to Build Relationships

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We caught up with Mauricio, a Wellbeing Support Worker from the Oxford team, to talk about his love of music, and how it helps him to connect with the people we support.

mauriciou laughing

Could you tell us a bit more about what you do and how the music helps? What are the benefits?

Some of the people we support are living with dementia, or they have sadly lost their other halves or other family members or friends, in both cases it helps them to access memories and brings them together. It is impressive how effective music can be at helping them to re-live their old memories. They get so excited when they can visualise their treasured memories and explain them to me in detail.

They think it’s magic how technology can find all these things so easily. For example, if during one of my visits we have a chat about certain places or periods of time, I will always do a bit of research to find a song to play for them and say “listen, remember when we were talking about this”, and they often say “how?!” and I tell them all about YouTube.

Then, when I visit in the future they ask me if I have my little machine with all the music, and I ask them what music they want me to play, and they say “no… I want my own machine!”

Also, when someone is feeling confused and I play music, it subconsciously creates a better atmosphere and helps them to relax.  I strongly believe that even background music can make such a big difference.  Although, I am incredibly sensitive to my surroundings, and if someone doesn’t want to hear music that day then that’s ok too.

Could you give an example of someone you’ve helped with music? 

I recently made a playlist on my phone for a gentleman we support. When I visit for lunch he likes to sit on the sofa and say “I close my eyes and I see myself again when I was in the army”. I think it helps him to relax, and it brings back memories, which he tells me all about when he wouldn’t have mentioned them before – there is something very powerful about music!

The music also seems to help people move, when they don’t have much mobility in day to day life, all of a sudden when the music comes on they’ll move their legs or tap their fingers like they’re dancing. It makes my visits more dynamic, they love, they remember, this is how I use music. After creating a relaxed, happy environment through music the conversation is very fluid and we connect on a deeper level.

When did you enjoying music with the people we support?

I started doing it for myself – sometimes in the morning I make the mistake of putting the news on which is generally negative, but one day I decided to put on some upbeat music instead. I remember the first time I played music while on a visit. The gentleman was having a shower so I started doing some cleaning and preparing breakfast, and I very quietly put my music on. The gentleman then came into the living room and said he likes the music and started asking me questions about it. From then on we had lots of conversations about the music he likes, and I introduced him to some other genres too.

What are the favourite bands/artists/songs of the people we support? 

Everyone is different, most of the people we support like music from the end of the 2nd World War – the music is amazing music from that time – and this is something that brings back those memories of when they were younger, meeting friends, or getting married. It transports them as if they go back in time.

Another thing I find useful is the YouTube algorithm, so when they can only remember the name of one song, YouTube will suggest others and all of a sudden they will say “oh yes I remember this one too!” So whether it is the same singer or genre, I can build on that with the help of the algorithm.

What makes you passionate about music? 

I play music, and I also love martial arts – which is a mixture of dancing and fighting. I used to teach martial arts at Oxford University, and I delivered projects about dancing and fighting to encourage people to get involved.

What would you recommend to families who’d like to use music to help their loved ones? 

I would recommend trying to help their loved ones with technology. There are so many apps and websites that will help to build their own playlist. Even if the families do this for them, and then show them how to turn on the playlist. I keep in touch with the families of the people I visit, so sometimes they will ask me to play a certain song for their mum and they say that she will remember where she was when she heard the song. I’ll play the song and she’ll say “oh yes, we were singing this in the car on the way up to Scotland” so sometimes it’s best for the family to suggest songs and enjoy the music together.