Tommy’s story

MHA Music Therapist image singing

Lighting up

When he sees music therapist Aisling, 91-year-old Tommy always remembers where he’s going.

Tommy, who has dementia, sings with Aisling during their sessions, plays on the piano and the drum. During these one to ones, he becomes more active and energetic.

“It’s exciting to see him in the sessions,” says Terry, Tommy’s son. “His eyes light up when he’s playing the drum It’s fantastic.”

“Music therapy has a massive effect on Tommy’s mood and on that of the people around him. It’s contagious.”

Gerard, activities coordinator at MHA Heather Grange

Gradual decline

A former roofer, avid rambler and cyclist, Burnley-born Tommy has enjoyed an active and fun-filled life. Cycling 60 miles when he was 60 is just one example of his zest for adventure.

Terry didn’t see Tommy’s dementia coming. The process started gradually, with his dad repeating himself a lot, and telling the same stories. Soon, Terry had to visit his dad regularly at home as he was unable to do basic household chores, which left him vulnerable. Eventually, Tommy needed full-time care so he moved into MHA Heather Grange in Burnley.

Tommy retains his humorous side, and is described by those who know him as a bit of a joker. But even though he can be chatty and entertaining, Tommy also finds it hard to process the things around him. The confusion he experiences means he spends time on his own in his room rather than socialising with those around him.

Mood lift

Tommy was referred for music therapy to encourage him to come out of his room more and to increase his opportunities for social interaction.

His upbeat mood lasts for some time after music therapy sessions with Aisling. This helps to lift other residents at MHA Heather Grange.

“Music therapy has a massive effect on Tommy’s mood and on that of the people around him,” says Gerard, activities co-ordinator at MHA Heather Grange. “It’s contagious.”

See Tommy drumming with Aisling in music therapy in this short video.

Sadly, Tommy died in February 2019. Tommy’s family are happy for MHA to tell his story.

Discover how you can help MHA music therapists provide more moments of joy for people like Tommy.

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MHA Music Therapy session image with instruments

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MHA Music Therapist session with musical instrument - Dr Ming

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