Couples where one partner is suffering from dementia can benefit from taking part in group singing.

That is the conclusion of research being presented today, Friday 4 December 2015, at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology in London.

Shreena Unadkat from Salomons Centre, Canterbury Christ Church University, interviewed 17 heterosexual couples where one partner had dementia.

The couples described various benefits they received from taking part: the pleasure of singing, the friendship and wider social life fostered by membership of a group and being able to take part in activity together as equals. Some couples said the experience had increased their sense of togetherness and "breathed oxygen into the relationship". Interestingly, the strongest benefits were reported when couples took part in learning or performing new material, not just singing reminiscence songs.

The partners with dementia said that taking part in group singing increased their confidence and gave them an identity beyond their diagnosis. The partners who were the carers reported a release from burden, a sense of liberation and enjoyment.

Shreena Unadkat said:

"Singing groups can provide couples with an opportunity to take part in an activity on an equal basis; something which can be difficult when one partner is the lead carer in outside life. Additionally, couples who learnt or performed new materials reported the greatest benefits, which is interesting considering many dementia therapies are based on reminiscence. This understanding may have implications for psychological therapists' involvement in dementia care".