Hitting the high notes for dementia

Sgt Phil Boyd has been with Bedfordshire Police for 6 years after joining Durham Constabulary in 2003 and transferring in 2010. For the past few weeks he has been attending ‘Singing for the Brain’ sessions, run by the Alzheimer’s Society. He explains why he’s been attending, and how he hopes it will make a difference…

I first heard about ‘Singing for the Brain’ at a Dementia Champions Forum organised by our Chief Inspector Jaki Whittred, who leads on mental health for the force. We have been holding these, as well as Dementia Friends sessions, pretty regularly over the past year and we encourage people to attend because dementia is such a complex illness, and it’s important that everyone across the force has some understanding of it.

Once we received a 999 call from a lady who said there was a strange man in her house and she was very scared. When our officers arrived, it turned out that the man was her husband and lived there with her… she had just forgotten who he was for that moment and panicked.

We are providing a service for a lot of people across the county, and incidents like that could crop up at any time which is why it’s important that we have at least a basic understanding of how dementia can affect people.

We also have Dementia Champions who deliver training sessions to small teams across the force, teaching them how to recognise the signs of dementia, and how to engage with people in our communities who are living with the condition. Our ambition is to deliver dementia training sessions to everyone.

At the first Dementia Champions Forum I attended, we heard from Mary Toner, who works for the Alzheimer’s Society. She explained to us all the different ways that the charity is helping people in the community, and she started telling us about Singing for the Brain.

It immediately jumped out at me and was something I knew I would have no problem taking part in. We were all asked to make a pledge and mine was ‘I will sing for the brain’.

Memory Walk 3I wanted to get involved because I wanted to learn more about dementia, and also because this is something I can do to give back to the community. However small it is, I am contributing to something and hopefully I can encourage more people to do the same.

The day after the Dementia Forum I was invited to a session, and I’ve been to several so far. I go in my uniform and we sit and chat and have a cup of tea as people arrive, and then we have a good sing.

The songs we sing range from the Beatles Yellow Submarine to Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera – anything anyone requests we will sing; last week I was dared to sing Que Sera, Sera in a Cockney accent following on from our previous rendition of I’d Do Anything from Oliver! and I was more than happy to facilitate. It raised a few smiles and then everyone joined in. It’s really fun and you can see it makes a difference.

The group meets from 10.30am to midday every Wednesday in Biggleswade. Please feel free to come along if you know anyone who might benefit from such sessions.

I can’t make it every week but go when I can and I will continue to do so for as long as possible. The staff and volunteers there do an incredible job, giving up their time every single week to run these fantastic sessions  – not only in Biggleswade but at many other locations, really making a huge difference to people’s lives.

Please get involved!

Sgt Boyd is taking part in this year’s Bedford Memory Walk, walking for a world without dementia, supporting the group of volunteers from the Singing for the Brain sessions. He will be completing the walk wearing a shirt, tie, tunic and police helmet but with his rugby shorts & socks and trainers on to provide practical support! You can donate via the JustGiving page here.


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