Unlocking a lifelong love of music - Annecto

Unlocking a lifelong love of music

When Don Briggs experienced a frontal stroke in 2011, he found that although his body was fine, his brain was not cooperating, and he needed some support.

He was no longer able to make decisions, drive, or go out independently. Initially his speech was badly affected but this improved immensely with speech therapy.

Then in 2013, Don was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.   Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia that affects memory loss and behaviour and mood changes.There are over 400,000 people living with Dementia-related illnesses in Australia today.

For Don, a recent visit to hear the local community brass band play, unlocked a life-long love of music and memories of playing the cornet and reading sheet music when he was a teenager. “Don has always loved brass band music.  We listen to it often at home. He started playing the cornet in the school band about 1944 then later was a solo cornet player for The Coburg City Band until 1958,” Judy, Don’s wife, explains.

Don stopped playing the cornet after he and Judy married and had children as they were busy with family and jobs. Knowing Don’s love of music, an annecto Case Manager Ruth Crawshaw, organised for Don and Judy to sit in on one of the Frankston Brass Band’s weekly rehearsals.   The effect the music had on Don was quite remarkable, and has given him something to look forward to and participate in, every week.   At the rehearsal, Don was given a sheet of music and as he listened to the music, Judy noticed something quite miraculous. “His fingers started moving across the sheet music in time with the music. He was following the music with his fingers.  Don hasn’t looked at a piece of music for years. In fact, it is 59 years since he last played,” explains Judy. The couple now attend band practice every week. “Don follows the music with his finger across the page, in perfect timing, most of the time,” explains Judy.

Band member Betty is 83 years of age, and has played the cornet since she was seven. “I’ve been in bands since I started playing. When you’re in a band, you’re in it for life,” says Betty. “We have band rehearsal once a week, and on Saturday mornings I teach the young ones to play the cornet in the band room. We loaned Don a cornet and said he was welcome to come down and join in the lessons on Saturday morning.”

Reading the music has come back to Don easily, but the playing is taking a bit of practice.  The lip, tongue and mouth positioning for the notes is something Don is learning again from scratch. “He’s such a nice man, and he’s trying really hard. It’s not easy when you used to know how to do something and then you’ve got to learn again, but he’s getting there,” Betty tells us.

“He may never play in a band again”, explains Judy.  “But it is being part of the group and attending band practice each week, and listening to the music that he loves.”  Both Don and his wife Judy are annecto clients using the Home Care Package (HCP) program.    annecto can help you set up a Home Care Package fast.

Find out more about annecto Home Care Packages here or call 1800 266 328 for a free phone consultation or email enquiries@annecto.org.au.