Music, Dementia and Everyday Life within a Community Day Care Setting
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Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This multi-method ethnographic study explores the everyday lives of people with dementia living in the community, cared for by a spouse or family member. It examines three case studies of individuals with early to moderate stage dementia. The latter were attending a weekly day-centre group and this thesis explores their interactions with each other, individual histories, tastes, habits and daily habits. The primary aim of the research was to explore the natural role of music in the lives of these subjects as individuals and as a group. In doing so, this undertaking shows how, in supportive environments, agency and capacity can flourish, leading to constituents of ‘re-covery’, to use mental health terminology. This highlights some of the important matters that are overlooked where perspectives emphasise dementia as a disease of the brain. By contrast, it illuminates the role of social and environmental factors and their contribution to well-being. After initial interviews with each individual and in some cases, members of their families, five months of participant observation followed, primarily located in a home-based day care service. The data set was formed from 178 hours of field observations, a number of audio-recordings made during the sessions, and detailed field notes. This study shows that a close-up focus on the minute details of how a person lives their life and ‘dwelling’ with them for an extended period will illuminate many of the processes that work toward maintaining the well-being of people with dementia and facilitate their revitalisation. Significantly, it was the integration of music within and alongside the everyday tapestries of activities and events which helped create a space for connection and pleasure. The thesis findings reveal how the participants in this research repeatedly demonstrated expertise and insight, albeit not always verbally expressed, but shown in and through forms of practice as regards what was required for their well-being and how to achieve it. This achievement, however, also relied upon thoughtful and creative collaboration with others (carers, family members, etc.), working alongside the participants for mutually beneficial ends. The thesis concludes that what is required for people with dementia and their well-being does not differ substantially from what is generally required by humankind, but there are certain skills and modes of co-operative assistance that are necessary to ensure and maintain the well-being of people with dementia.
Please note, access to the supplementary sound files for this thesis has been restricted to comply with copyright law. The main thesis text is available to read and can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Full Text of Thesis’ link.
PhD in Sociology