What are the medium to long term implications for the care home sector because of Covid-19 and what role will music occupy in a new era?

August 11, 2020

Vic Rayner, Executive Director, National Care Forum

2020 will be both the year to remember, and the year to forget. The year when we lost so many, who will never be forgotten and the year where we understood that despite the extent of our sophisticated knowledge around science and technology, one of the strongest tools in our box was the simple act of our washing our hands.

2020 was also the year that virtual became reality.

The consumption of arts – including music – has become an online phenomena that no one in their wildest imagination could have ever predicted. The dominant narrative around immersive experience being the way to fully appreciate the arts has had to be turned on it’s head. We now find ourselves taking virtual tours of galleries, and marvelling at concerts put together by tech wizardry with musicians from across the world synchronised by a clap, performing familiar favourites and new compositions.

Closed community

Things have had to change in care homes as well. From early March 2020, homes across the country have shut their doors to all visitors, creating a closed community where staff become the only ones who come and go. This has meant that many homes with extensive programmes to support people living with dementia which centre around the live provision of music therapy, or live music performance have had to come to an immediate and sustained halt. At the time of writing this, there is still no government guidance pertaining to the reintroduction of regular visits from family and friends, and definitely nothing that recognises the role of music and musicians.

Of course this does not meant that music has gone from people’s lives.

Sustaining music

There have been some beautiful examples where music has continued to sustain and enhance the lives of people living with dementia. These have included visiting musicians continuing to perform at a distance in the garden, care home staff sharing their hidden talents and coordinating music sessions and singalongs and residents themselves leading the charge by sharing their favourite renditions.

In addition organisations like Live Music Now have also been producing dedicated online live concerts for care homes, and of course the arrival of m4d Radio the dedicated new radio station for people living with dementia and their carers. For those who lead activities in care homes, NAPA has brought together a mass of free resources including those to support music during the Covid 19 pandemic which can be found here:

Connecting bond

However, we are also know just how important ongoing interaction is for people living with dementia. Dementia specialist organisations are very fearful of the impact this enforced separation from family and friends is having on people. It is quite possible that we will be living with Covid 19 amongst our communities for the next 12 months or more. We cannot let people living in care homes lose this vital and connecting bond with live music. We cannot lose the progress that has been made in relation to understanding how music therapy can make connections with people with dementia that other forms of intervention and support have not achieved.

One of the very few positive outcomes of this pandemic has been the revelation of just how flexible and responsive virtual platforms can be. Yet the very real engagement with live music and live musicians is a precious resource that people living with dementia should not be excluded from again. The restorative features of live music are well documented, and we must fight to keep the doors open of care homes in the face of any future outbreaks, so that live music can play on.


Vic Rayner is Executive Director of the National Care Forum, joining the organisation in 2016.

The NCF is the strongest voice for the not for profit care sector, and works with its membership to drive forward the delivery of quality, person-centred care. As Executive Director she is the chair of the government Strategic Advisory Forum on the social care workforce, co chair of the National Social Care Advisory Group on social care and technology and sits on a range of government and national specialist groups with a focus on the social care workforce, digital transformation, new models of care and regulation.

Vic is a regular national and international speaker, and has extensive knowledge and expertise across a wide range of care, support, housing and social policy agendas. Prior to joining the NCF, she was the CEO of Sitra, a leading national membership body championing excellence in housing, health, care and support.

Vic is a trustee of Hestia a leading London charity providing care and support and the Care Workers Charity. Vic wass the independent Chair of the Brighton and Hove Fairness Commission, tackling inequalities and promoting social justice within the locality. Vic has an MBA (Distinction), MA and BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

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