Before Vicki Jones' grandmother Esmee died in September, music was the only real method Vicki had to reach Esmee through the dementia that plagued her.

Since Esmee died, Vicki has used the inheritance to form the Music Moves Me Trust to help other families utilise music to interact with loved ones affected by dementia.

Esmee spent the final eight years of her life in a secure dementia unit. Vicki describes her as "a force of nature" and "a fiery redhead".

She said she had a "telephone voice" that her family would tease her about, and she and Gerald, Vicki's grandfather, would dance together in the living room listening to jazz.


"The dementia subsumed Esmee by stealth. She started to write long lists of things to do. She found it difficult to remember how to pay for her groceries, would leave her handbag at the butcher's and her keys in the fridge. Eventually she lost sight of herself and her family," Vicki said.

Teaming up with Kath Woodley, a singing teacher with experience with charitable trusts, and Helen McGann, a music therapist, the trust will test a number of approaches during a pilot study at Aparangi and Cambridge residential care units.

The aim is to use interactive music and music therapy on dementia sufferers in order to help them maintain function, access memory and connect with those around them.

One of the approaches will see personalised MP3 players given to dementia patients loaded with playlists based on recommendations from friends and family, with the aim to help the listener regain lost memories.

"It's music from teenage years and early adulthood that people tend to latch on to," said Vicki. "It's that first-love kind of time."

Other aspects of the trial also include interactive music group sessions in which those with dementia will be given specially designed instruments to play no matter what their level, and traditional music therapy.

The study also hopes to assess the availability of dementia care staff, musicians and volunteers to support the Trust.

So far, setting up the Trust and arranging the trial has cost around $7000 - the bulk of Vicki's inheritance.

"If we can prove we're helpful we will apply for bigger grants," Vicki said.

In the meantime, the Trust will be putting on a performance of Fiddler on the Roof. It is a performance with a difference, with contributors being able to contribute by paying for tickets, buying a sing-along CD, or by joining the show chorus.

Tickets carry a suggested donation of $10, with CDs and show chorus participation at $20.

Chorus participation includes four flexible practices and two practices on December 13 from 10am.

The Fiddler on the Roof performance will be held on December 13 at 6.30pm at Fairfield Intermediate School. For information on participation or attendance email Kath at