Former X Factor contender’s Vera Lynn venture to help dementia sufferers

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A MUM who thought her working days had ended is proving she has the X Factor after starting up a new career helping dementia sufferers... with a little inspiration with Vera Lynn

Former recruitment worker Kayley Ede was left wondering what to do after leaving her job of seven years.

Kayley Ede, singing the songs of Vera Lynn to residents and staff at St Martha's Care Home at Thornhill Park.

Kayley Ede, singing the songs of Vera Lynn to residents and staff at St Martha's Care Home at Thornhill Park.

The mum-of-one went back to work after being on maternity leave, but didn’t want to go full-time as it meant leaving son Tyler, now 19-months-old.

After leaving, Kayley, 26, married to Tyler’s dad Chris Ede, 27, looked for any job she could, but wasn’t even able to secure a cleaning position as she was told she was over-qualified.

After months of trying, a friend asked Kayley, a singer, to perform in St Martha’s residential home, Thornhill Park, Sunderland.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Kayley Ede, singing the songs of Vera Lynn to residents and staff at St Martha's Care Home at Thornhill Park.

Kayley Ede, singing the songs of Vera Lynn to residents and staff at St Martha's Care Home at Thornhill Park.

“I thought I would give it a go,” said Kayley, of Humbledon, Sunderland.

“Then I was lying awake at night thinking that I could dress up as Vera Lynn and do some older songs.

“I was thinking about my nan who used to sing to me. We used to sing Vera Lynn songs together.

“The residents’ reaction to it was brilliant.”

The former member of Sunderland girl group Harmonyze, who auditioned in front of music mogul Simon Cowell on the X Factor, continued: “After that I got invited to a dementia awareness course and I learnt so much and how scary and frustrating it can be for people with dementia.

“I looked into how music could really help people with dementia.”

Kayley, who has also performed in Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire, was then invited to volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Society daycare centre.

“I wasn’t sure at first because of childcare costs,” she said.

“But my mum worked shifts and so she said she’d help me out so I could find out more about dementia and it went from there.

“One thing led to another and the Alzheimer’s Society volunteering officer told me all about Singing for the Brain in Sunderland.

“It didn’t take off, but then the South Tyneside groups got under way and everything spiralled from there.”

Now Kayley’s career is going from strength to strength and she runs her own Singing for the Brain Groups,

The programme, she says, puts emphasis on having a “good old sing-song” combined with co-ordination, aiming to unlock memories and get people socialising with family and friends.

Kayley adds a twist, using musical instruments to get people involved in the songs as well.

“Singing for the Brain is totally out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“I am used to standing behind a microphone with all my gear on singing.

“I really do interact with the residents I sing for at the care homes, but on a totally different level to the way I have a laugh with Singing for the Brain participants whose dementia is less advanced. Leading the group is new to me. That took a big leap in confidence to get there. I was dead nervous at first, but now I feel I’ve got to grips with it.”

The singer, who performs under the name Kayley Cares, is also getting to grips with her new image.

Trussed up in her Vera Lynn-esque guise, Kayley gets the residents singing along with her choice of music, including Vera Lynn’s most famous hit, We’ll Meet Again.

“I used to listen to ’40s and ’50s stuff anyway, but now it’s my job,” she said.

“I love Adele and I grew up listening to Whitney Housten, Musically, I still love Vera Lynn because she’s so timeless.

“Singing for the Brain aims for songs that are memorable. When we sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight, they learnt a new song and it was a real hit.

“There was an old man in his 60s who was in a wheelchair who couldn’t speak. He’d just stopped communicating.

“I sang Only You by The Platters and he sang every word. At the end of the performance I went up to him and told him I’d seen him singing.

“He tried his best to respond, and his wife was astonished.”

She added: “When I looked further into dementia, most people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, it’s only really the older music that strikes a chord with them.

“It’s different with Singing for the Brain, as some of the people who come to those groups are younger, but it made me think that if I dress up in clothes from that era, it will make it seem more believable.

“It helps because it’s a performance, and it helps because it gets residents talking about how their mums used to do their hair like mine.

“With Singing for the Brain, they enjoy it because it adds to the authenticity of the whole act.”

Kayley, who received a grant from The Prince’s Trust to buy the equipment to set up her business and is now an ambassador for the charity, said her new career has lead to a new passion.

“I’m committed to helping people with dementia,” she said. “There are loads of care home entertainers, but I want to specialise in the care industry. I’ve learned so much.

“If this doesn’t work out, I can see myself doing something with the Alzheimer’s Society or dementia.”

And she’s getting the support she needs from home as well as at work.

“My husband has been really supportive,” she said.

“He listens to me practicing songs every night and never complains, and he’s over the moon I’m doing something I enjoy, because that’s crucial to me.

“I have to enjoy my job to keep doing it.”

She continued: “I get to spend time with Tyler, which is important to me as well, and I’m making more money than I would have before.

“I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur, when I started doing the singing I managed to get myself a job in a corner shop because I was worried what I would do to pay for childcare.

“I love what I’m doing, and I can’t believe I’m singing for a living.”