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The ‘Forget me Not’ choir enjoying the benefit that music has brought into their lives. Images: Vicki Forbes

‘Forget me Nots’ – a shining light for carers

Lynne Mowbray |

For those of us that have been touched by dementia, either in the past or at the present time; it can take its toll on both the family and the carers.

Thanks to two local ladies, there is now a dementia support group in place which utilizes music to help add quality of life to dementia sufferers and support to their carers.

At the end of 2017, Leigh Robertson and Jenny Worrell decided that it would a challenging and worthwhile exercise to set up a singing group for people who suffered from memory loss.

The women contacted the director of the Clarence Valley Conservatorium Adam Wills and obtained a NSW government grant through Chris Gulaptis MP and kicked it off.

“It has since grown and evolved into a very supportive and inclusive group of people,” Jenny said.

“We started in February 2018 and the original plan was to cater for people who were living with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was decided very quickly, that it would be opened up to anyone living with memory loss, loneliness or those who love to sing.

“The group is run by volunteers Joy Rickets, Helen Farrell, Annie Visage, Brenda Little, Leigh and Jenny, but anyone is welcome to come and join us. The morning costs nothing to attend and it is guaranteed to make you feel better about life.

“The Forget Me Not Choir is a group of people who sing together every Tuesday, at 10 – 11.30, at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium in Grafton.

“We’re not really a choir – but that’s what we call ourselves.

“We sing, dance, laugh and have a really enjoyable time.

“The effects of the singing on everyone are quite remarkable.

“The mood in the room lightens and 10 minutes into the session, there are smiles on every face and people who have not interacted with their partners or carers all week are suddenly joining in and requesting songs, dancing and moving to the music.

“We sing for 30 minutes then have morning tea. We use this time for social interaction for the carers, as the aim is to give these wonderful people some time out, and happily this is what is happening.

“We have been lucky enough to have the children from the Grafton Public School, visit regularly and sing with us; and for us and this adds a whole new dimension to the participation level.

“From the beginning of 2019 we had requests to start the group in Maclean.

“The group meets in Maclean once a month at the Maclean Presbyterian Church on a Thursday, at 10am. The next get together will be in September and as from the beginning of September, we are hoping to come to Maclean fortnightly,” she said.

Candida Ashford of Maclean is a carer for her mother and shared the benefits this group has had on both her mother and herself.

“Watching mum’s face light up when she sings is such a gift, I say to people that I can cope with her forgetting who we are, but I can’t cope with her losing her ability to feel happy and free from fear – mum goes to the choir and has a ball. Her face lights up, she laughs and smiles and forgets to be anxious, it is as if the big black cloud has been chased away by the music. People dance and clap and just have fun, it doesn’t matter who you are, or how well you sing, yet somehow everyone comes together and has a great time.

The group is more about carers. I wasn’t sure how it would help me in the beginning, but it does in many surprising ways.

We have carers who have lost their loved one or who have them in care, as well as those who are caring at home. We talk about the tricky things that we have to manage when caring for someone with Dementia, we listen to each other, pass on ‘tips and trick’s or just provide a sounding board. We are all in the same boat, we don’t have to explain anything to each other, we know just how hard it is to keep going every day and that frustration, anger and exhaustion are always with you. Reassurance that it is okay to feel these things, is something that I receive from this group, I can sit there with mum and talk openly about my feelings, knowing that what I say is being heard and understood,” she said.

For more information about “Forget me Nots” contact: Clarence Valley Conservatorium on 6643 3555.