Volunteers’ Week 2022: the joy and value of music therapy

During Volunteers’ Week we celebrate the contributions of our amazing volunteers across Sue Ryder. Here, we shine a light on Caroline, who helps provide music therapy sessions and other support for residents at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Lancashire.

“Music can evoke memories and feelings, but best of all it just lifts your spirits.”

Caroline volunteers at Neurological Care Centre Lancashire two days a week and says she has always been drawn towards working with people. 

She said: “About 21 years ago, I volunteered to work with stroke patients in support speech therapy and music therapy and I did that one day a week for about four years alongside my Magistrate work.

“Many years later I found myself at home, in bed following a minor head injury. Along with my hidden disability, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I was bedbound for quite a while just looking at the ceiling and during that time there were two things that I was quite adamant about. Once I get better I’m going to do some volunteering and I’m going to decorate this awful bedroom!”

Having decorated her bedroom beautifully, Caroline is now putting her previous experience to good use by supporting the weekly music therapy sessions at the centre.

Joyful and uplifting

“Music can evoke memories and feelings, but best of all it just lifts your spirits. I’m really passionate about the music therapy here at Sue Ryder. I support Sarah, the music therapist who runs the sessions. We have around 20 residents who come along now and she will welcome each one by name within a song so that everyone feels included.

“For those who have the manual dexterity we will give them a maraca or a tambourine and encourage them to join in, making music. There are even instruments for clients who only have use of their foot.

“Some residents may have difficulty communicating through speech, but amazingly they can sometimes recall and sing lyrics, because music is stored differently in the brain to regular speech. Music can be joyful and uplifting, sometimes calming and soothing, and I think that this is so beneficial for all of our clients. It might just be the highlight of their week.”

Caroline enjoying a music therapy session with a resident.

Shopping, hand massages and the weekly facial

Caroline also enjoys spending time with the residents and offers complimentary treatments when she is at the centre. 

“It’s about making the clients feel special,” she said. “Sometimes it’s something as simple as a hand massage. It's important for the client to feel that’s it’s their time. They can chat if they wish or just completely relax and quietly enjoy the treatment.

“For our clients who are non-verbal, that soothing physical touch might well be a very warm and comforting experience for them. Alongside the great nursing care, these are moments that they deserve. We also have ladies who love to have their nails painted and there’s one client in particular who I know adores having her weekly facial.

“I’m taking one client out this afternoon to the shops. She is a wheelchair user and having a bit of what she calls ‘normality’ is really significant to her wellbeing. What I like is that it’s not always about doing things for people here, it’s about helping them to help themselves where possible.” 

Making a connection, raising a smile

Caroline, who has previously worked in various roles in business and also delivered a local authority project promoting independence for British Sign Language users, says she gets as much from her new role as she gives. 

“It’s a lovely feeling that you have made a connection with people and seeing the clients raise a smile when you arrive for your day’s voluntary work - that is what makes me feel very valued. I’m not currently in paid employment, so there’s definitely a little bit of self-worth attached to my volunteering.

“Now I find myself responsible for doing the Sue Ryder online training and turning up regularly at a set time, which gives me some positive structure to my life. For people who haven’t worked for some time, volunteering can be a wonderful self-affirming stepping stone.”

“I think volunteering is a bit like being a good neighbour, and this building is ‘home’ for many of our clients. For some, this building is their whole world, so what happens here is incredibly important.”

“You give time, patience and understanding as a volunteer. Sometimes it’s just about being that extra pair of hands where you spot a menial job that you can do and in turn that might just relieve a staff member of a small task, which enables them to go about their work more efficiently.    

“I never describe myself as ‘just a volunteer.’ I feel this role has its own valuable place within the vast Sue Ryder team. I like to use the analogy of a huge clock – I may only be a small cog, but the little cogs turn the medium-sized cogs and they keep the larger cogs turning.

“I have never been in a working environment quite like this, where all of the staff have adopted an attitude towards helping each other every day and making each day the best it can be for all.”

Volunteer with us

Our volunteers support our expert care all across Sue Ryder. If you're interested in helping us be there when it matters, you can find our latest volunteering opportunities and information about what it's like to volunteer with us.