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Music Therapy student inspires funds for Newport nursing home

Rebecca Thomas, final year MA Music Therapy student at University of South Wales (USW), has been on work placement at Capel Grange nursing home in Newport.

When Rebecca presented at a recent ‘Our Voice, Our Choice, Our City – participatory budgeting voting event’, not only did she help to secure the nursing home’s funding bid, a member of the audience also felt compelled to discuss further financial support for the project.

Working with residents of the Linc Cymru owned nursing home, Rebecca designs, one-to-one and group, music therapy sessions.

“Every session has a different aim,” she said.

“With one group, you could be singing together to increase social interaction, reduce isolation, and to promote a sense of connection between residents and staff.

“Another session could be specifically designed to stimulate and discuss memories by listening to and playing live music through the ages or different genres. There really are lots of ways that, playing or listening to, music can benefit wellbeing.”

Rebecca has been a musician all her life but feels strongly about using her skills, along with her therapeutic knowledge, to help people. She said: “I can’t begin to tell you what it means to see a therapy session have a profound effect on a person. Sometimes just 45 minutes can make a big difference to someone because music stimulates many different parts of the brain.

“Sometimes, when families have joined in with their relatives who live with advanced dementia residents, it can be the only time they feel they have a connection with their family member that week. The music has stimulated memories and lessened the effects of the dementia symptoms during that time.”

Linc Cymru invited Rebecca to provide a taste of what a music therapy session might look like, at a funding event, in a bid to gain funds to extend the project and reach more residents.

“They asked me to demonstrate what I do with residents because they felt it enable the audience to see the benefits of music therapy. There were 25 organisations making bids that day, so I felt a lot of pressure to make an impression in three minutes.”

Capel Grange Nursing Home secured £1700, not only for new instruments but also for clinical supervision for future students to work with residents, benefitting the students, the residents and their families, and the nursing home staff.

They also received an invitation from another organisation to bid for further funding because they were so impressed by the therapeutic work and the difference that these work placements can make to those who need it.

Karen Jeffreys, Community Engagement Manager at Linc Cymru, said: “Rebecca showed us the impact this psychological clinical intervention can have. Within 30 seconds the whole audience was animated – it was as if music therapy was reaching us all.

“Being invited to extend the project with the support of another organisation was a real gift, and we are so thankful to all those who gave us their support, but especially to the phenomenal Rebecca and her on-stage participants.”

Dr Elizabeth Coombes, Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy, said: “This new partnership with Linc Cymru is offering four MA Music Therapy students the opportunity to bring the benefits of music therapy to residents, their families, and staff.

“Music therapy has a strong evidence-based practice with older people and people living with dementia. The amazing presentation given by Rebecca, the Linc Cymru team, and residents has showcased USW students’ hard work in the community. Long may it continue.”