Review: Soundtrack to My Life by John Osborne

Review: Soundtrack to My Life by John Osborne

Soundtrack to My Life offers an innovative and thoroughly entertaining approach to using personalised music in dementia care, centred around compassion and understanding.

Author John Osborne’s background as a musician combined with over 35 years spent working in health and social care, along with his experience of caring for his own father who had dementia, gives him a unique understanding of the relationship between music and memory loss conditions. His experiences are coupled with an understanding of the power of music and its therapeutic potential, both in evoking the past and influencing how we engage with the present.

The book’s approach is organised according to three ‘core principles’; firstly, that ‘People with dementia don’t lose the ability to communicate, we lose the ability to understand them’. Second is the assertion that in order to work with people with dementia it is essential to ‘know their life story’, and thirdly, that ‘We are all capable of using music to create memory bridges and reconnections that support people with dementia to live well’. These are successfully woven throughout the book by the author, who uses them to frame the exercises in each section.

The book is designed to be worked through, stage by stage, through a variety of activities that bear these principles in mind. For example the first section, ‘My Family’, encourages the reader to think about the music they associate with their children, their parents and their own childhood. There is also space allocated to record favourite family memories. This approach is then used to cover a variety of topics ranging from musical favourites (and, just as importantly, dislikes) to songs associated with major life events. These sections also have activities that encourage drawing, colouring and sticking in photographs, which can be completed according to the discretion of the reader.

Following the completion of all the sections, the book offers the opportunity to compile favourite songs from each section, to make up a ‘Soundtrack to My Life Playlist’. With an understanding of the memories and emotions attached to each song recorded earlier in the book, it then becomes possible to ‘apply the music in practical and therapeutic ways’, for example by using a relaxing song to lessen the anxiety of a hospital visit.

Designed to be carried around and frequently referred to, this book would be of therapeutic value not only to people living with dementia, but also to family or friends who will find the process of supporting a loved one in compiling their playlist, while reminiscing through music, greatly rewarding.

In Soundtrack to My Life John Osborne has created a practical, engaging and entertaining guide for people with dementia, or those caring for people with dementia. The result is a compilation of the pieces of music most important to them and a record of the memories and significances that they hold, ‘to enhance quality of life and promote emotional and spiritual wellbeing’.