Music has always played an important part in the lives of Lesley Easton and her family.
But today those musical links are proving even more vitak than ever as the family comes to terms with dad Norman learning to live with both Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia.
“Dad has refused to be defined by the illness and for many years, post diagnosis, continued to lead a full and active life”, said Lesley .
“The situation altered eighteen months ago when we realised that it would be beneficial to access support from additional services specifically aimed at those living with dementia and their carers.
“Music has always been a large part of my parents’ life so we went along to singing for the brain and dementia cafes in Doncaster and Cantley.”
And that is when Lesley discovered the valuable work being carried out by leading South Yorkshire dementia charity Lost Chord.
Lost Chord provides vital interactive musical experiences for people living with dementia in care homes and day centres across South Yorkshire and nationally.
A team of professional musicians use their skills in many different styles of music to stimulate their audience and provoke the sort of response that family members often haven’t seen for years, as a favourite melody encourages a flicker of recognition that can be truly uplifting and inspiring to all.
The main patron of the charity is Doncaster opera star Lesley Garrett, who has spoken on many occasions about the importance of music for people living with dementia, based on her own aunt’s experience of the condition.
Lost Chord’s work has also won the respect of everybody from David Attenborough to Icelandic pop star Bjork and jazz legend Jamie Cullum.
For Lesley though, the Lost Chord story is a deeply personal one and one that inspired her to become a keen fundraiser for the charity.
“When Lost Chord played there was a great deal of dancing and singing, fun and enjoyment,” Lesley recalls. “The monthly sessions were always an event we looked forward to.”
A year ago Norman moved into a care home where he was happy and well cared for but he was not mobile enough to attend the events he had previously enjoyed.
“I decided that if he could not get to the events then I would fundraise to take Lost Chord to the home.”
A fundraising meal, afternoon tea and wine tasting evening in a local restaurant raised sufficient funds for Lost Chord to go into the home for 16 sessions.
“Dad is no longer mobile, he sleeps a lot and has limited speech but understands much of what is said,” she added.
“Last week he was taken into the main room where Lost Chord were playing and the change in him was absolutely amazing - he sat upright, was tapping his feet, clapping his hands and singing along.
“At this particular session Glenn Miller songs were played. Mum and dad had seen Glenn Miller perform and danced to the same tunes when they were younger.
“Further songs that they had enjoyed when on their annual holiday to Almeria in Spain were played and the session clearly brought back happy memories and evoked a powerful response from dad.
“I cannot overstate how beneficial these sessions are for my dad. At times he will seem quite distant but when Lost Chord play he positively lights up.”
Lost Chord was founded by Helena Muller, chief executive, who said that in more than a decade of work she has seen the effect experienced by Lesley’s father many times - and she never fails to be moved by it.
“To see people who have become locked in a world where they no longer even recognise family members and loved ones suddenly light up at the recognition of a favourite piece of music is truly extraordinary,” she said.
“For what might be just a short while you will have the person you love back with you and you will be able to share a memory and a moment in a way that might not have happened in a very long time.”
However, funding is key and she added: “Every month we have to look at how many events we can afford, which is why we need the backing of people like Lesley.
“Every penny raised means that somebody with dementia might be able to enjoy that special moment that our musicians provide - and that is worth so much.”
The charity was founded in 1999 and is based at The Wesley Centre in Maltby.
From its earliest beginnings with 11 residential homes in Rotherham, Lost Chord has expanded into many parts of South Yorkshire, North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with satellite schemes in London and Wales. There are now satellite schemes in Coventry, Cardiff, London Bury St Edmonds and Ipswich.
Lost Chord produces more than 1,300 interactive musical sessions a year in 130 homes. Musical patrons of the charity include Dame Vera Lynn, Cliff Richard and Chris Rea.
To find out more about Lost Chord and how to get involved visit Lost Chord