Thursday afternoons have taken on a new significance for residents of Avalon Nursing Home in Bridgwater since Salvation Army volunteer, Graham Box, has started weekly visits to the home to lead a range of worship meetings, social get-togethers and musical therapy.
A regular visitor to the home last spring, Graham has long carried out worship meetings alongside his fellow volunteers and has recently begun visiting weekly in response to demand from residents.
Activities co-ordinator Emma Hill says: “Many of our ladies and gents enjoy attending worship meetings with the Salvation Army, which not only gives them the opportunity to practise their faith but is also spiritually uplifting through prayer, readings and musical therapy.
“Participating in musical therapy is just as important as watching and listening and they always have a great time joining in with a selection of percussion instruments.
“The power of music, especially singing, to unlock memories and kick-start grey matter is an increasingly key feature of dementia care. It seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.
“A favourite activity is to sing along when Graham plays the piano. They all enjoy singing songs and hymns – even when they don’t really know the words! – and enjoy a chat and cup of tea afterwards. We really appreciate Graham continuing to make time for these visits.”
Graham Box said: “All my visits to the Avalon are a blessing to me, but I feel particularly privileged to play the piano to accompany the singing of old-time favourites, which many of the residents enjoy and can remember well.
“It’s lovely when we also get some relatives visiting to join in and the Home’s staff are most welcoming and encourage the residents to get involved.”
The schedule for Graham’s visits varies, with a worship meeting for those who wish to join on the first Thursday of the month, usually involving prayer, readings, hymns and social chat, while every second and fourth Thursday, he spends some time with the residents just chatting about whatever takes their fancy. This is particularly beneficial for those who prefer to socialise on a one-to-one basis or who are poorly and on bed rest.
On the third Thursday of the month Avalon holds a coffee afternoon for the residents, their friends and family and Salvation Army Volunteers. This includes refreshments, activities and musical therapy with Graham and his colleague Pat Potter who also sometimes attends other meetings.
Founded in 1865 by William Booth, the Salvation Army is famously known for helping those who have fallen on hard times and their work in the community.