OPENED LINK: Debbie Phipps places headphones on her mother Celeste Rose, who has dementia.
OPENED LINK: Debbie Phipps places headphones on her mother Celeste Rose, who has dementia. Claudia Baxter

AFTER years of visiting her mother in the dementia ward at Nowlanvil nursing home, Debbie Phipps was accustomed to one-way conversations.

Holding her mother Celeste's hand was the only connection she had until she came across a new kind of music therapy.

The therapy focused on playing music dementia patients listened to in their 30s, to try and reconnect with their memories.

Mrs Phipps had seen remarkable reactions on television programs, of patients speaking to their loved ones after years of silence.

She hoped for the same result and compiled a 250-song play list of her mother's favourite tunes from the 60s. When one of Celeste's favourites from iconic Aussie performer Johnny O'Keefe played, Mrs Phipps had her first interaction with her mother for many years.

"It was amazing because mum doesn't talk to me anymore and she engaged me," she said.

"She heard Johnny O'Keefe play and she said my name. It was emotional. That was enough for me, that she would engage me.

"She is very advanced so anything from her is a great thing.

"It had been a couple of years before she had said my name."

The dementia awareness campaigner is determined to collect as many iPods and music players as possible to give other families the same opportunity.

This year Mrs Phipps released purple balloons into the sky from Queens Park to raise awareness of the condition.

Service manager Caren Van Stroe said Nowlanvil was introducing the new music therapy across the 114 dementia patients.

Ms Van Stroe said 10 families would begin shortly, with the nursing home looking to buy iPods for patients.

"It's amazing. We will be using it to provide better care to a lot of dementia patients," she said.

To learn more about the campaign or to donate an iPod to Mrs Phipps' cause, give her a call on 0412 093 255.


Dementia Facts

  • Without a breakthrough, 900,000 Australians will have dementia by 2050
  • Dementia a progressive decline in a person's functioning
  • It causes loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning

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