A leading authority on the use of music in the care of people with dementia has pledged to tell the world about the joy it brings after winning a prestigious award.
Nia Davies-Williams is 25,000 words into her book Sketches of Broken Minds which will give a fascinating insight into the impact her music has had on elderly people suffering the disease.
As Musician in Residence at the Bryn Seiont Newydd centre of excellence for dementia care in Caernarfon, Nia, 45, achieves a remarkable connection with residents through singing and playing the harp and piano.
Her work in the home saw her step into the spotlight to receive a gold award at the Welsh care Oscars at Cardiff City Hall.
She was the winner of the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation Wales Care Award for Promoting the Arts in Social Care.
She was nominated by colleagues for bringing ‘light and joy’ into the lives older people with dementia who can no longer communicate.
“I knew I was short-listed in the awards but my colleagues kept the category as a surprise, Nia said.
“They knew how much it would mean to me to win the Sir Bryn Terfel prize and raise further awareness of the amazing impact music has in the care of people with dementia.
“Many of the residents have lost so much of their memory they can’t remember their words when they try to speak but when I play an old song or hymn they will remember every word and join in. To see the person behind the dementia is a wonderful thing.”
The award has spurred Nia on to complete her book next year. She added: “Really there needs to be more research into the therapeutic qualities of music.
“I have completed academic papers in Welsh but the book will be in English. Through it I hope to share good practice and spread the word nationally.”
Bryn Seiont Newydd, run by the arts loving care organisation, Pendine Park, has a music room complete with mini grand piano and Nia has taken full advantage of it, offering it to music groups in return for giving residents a concert.
Home manager Sandra Evans said staff were thrilled for her. “By the nature of their illnesses, the memory span of most of our residents is short and some can no longer communicate. But when Nia plays, their faces light up and you just know in that moment they can ‘feel’ and sense enjoyment.”
Nia fits writing in between working at the nursing home and lately becoming part of Gwynedd Council’s ‘Memories through Music – Connecting Generations’ scheme in which she leads music and song to help tackle loneliness in older people in rural communities.
She has written songs for well-known Welsh bands and was once a runner up in Song for Wales on S4C.
She helped persuade music legend Leonard Cohen to allow a Welsh version of his song Hallelujah which wowed judges when the Glanaethwy choir performed it on BGT in 2015.
She was back on stage to pick up her Wales Care Award. The evening attracted several high profile sponsors including Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs.
MC was opera singer Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare television adverts.
Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.
He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
“We take our hats off to them.”