Dementia Centred

By DSDC Guest

January 13th, 2020

Music Mirrors: capturing the sounds of memories

A concern often overlooked as people grow older, or more vulnerable, is the gradual erosion of individual identity, particularly when there are changes in care and circumstance. Moving from the family home, or admission to hospital from residential care can often make it difficult for someone to be known as themselves or build connections with new people in an unfamiliar environment.

Music Mirrors helps people at an early stage of memory loss – or even before that – to make very simple digital resources which link their life stories told in their own words to recorded music. Brief written additions to care plans describe uniquely personal sounds, scraps of music and familiar words which evoke positive feelings or memories.  They can comfort and reassure at times of anxiety or distress, ease the routines of daily life, and may help to sustain identities grown fragile with age or illness.

Music Mirrors can be stored as part of conventional care plans or, when written as an email, linked to YouTube to call up the sounds or music mentioned.  They are easily made, virtually cost-free, require no personalised equipment or special software and can be shared or used via everyday smartphones or tablets when and wherever needed. As a just-in-time intervention, they have the potential to benefit people with a wide range of physical, mental, and spiritual needs.

To make a Music Mirror with someone:

  • Start as early as possible, to give them the most input and satisfaction 
  • Talk with them about the good things in life and the sounds or music that have been part of that.
  • Condense the conversation into just a few sentences and audio cues. Use their original words wherever possible (this helps people to remember later). Make it short enough to be read quickly and easily by busy carers.
  • Once they are happy with the words, write them as an e-mail, and match each audio reference to a suitable version on YouTube.
  • This document, with live links, can be shared or sent wherever it is needed for comfort, useful for reminiscence and information, or as a wonderful gift to be shared with family.
  • A words-only version is just as useful.

Music Mirrors (MMS) are used in hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing and domestically. NorseCare, managing residential care homes and housing, with care schemes across Norfolk, recently adopted MMS as part of its Wellbeing and Dementia Strategies and presented their work at 2019 UK Dementia Congress. Dementia support staff in local NHS hospitals are also trained to recognise, make and use MMS to provide integrated care for people when they are at their most vulnerable.

For more information about the project, please visit the Music Mirrors website or contact Heather.

~ Heather Edwards


Thank you to Rhianna Broadway, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Jessica Blake, University of East Anglia for support and inspiration for this project.

Good to know...

2016 Health Innovation Network led a project promoting Music Mirrors across the South London dementia community

2017 Shortlisted for Guardian Innovation in Mental Health Services in Advancing Healthcare Awards

2017 A four year intervention study began at the Zentrum für Gerontologie of Zürich University, led by Dr. Sandra Oppikofer with Dr. Gabriela Hofstetter.

2018 Music Mirrors included in a new study, Care for music: an ethnography of music in late life and end of life settings, funded by the AHRC (May 2019 to May 2022)

2019 Care England recently included NorseCare's use of Music Mirrors as a case study in:

Categories: Dementia and Music