Music has always played an important part in my life.
I sang my first solo at church when I was four and by the time I was eleven I was singing with my parents from church to church. My first song was written when I was ten. And I recorded my first album when I was fourteen. My first song to hit top twenty charts on radio stations happened when I was eighteen. The same year I got to open for B.J. Thomas in Lakeland, Fl. So, yeah, music is a big deal in my family.
Did you know music plays an important part in the minds of people with dementia?
As I have mentioned in a previous post my parents met through music. They were at a college camp where my mom was playing the piano. My dad, who loved to sing, just had to meet her. The rest is history. Both of my parents now suffer from dementia. My dad has Alzheimers. It is so painful to watch your parents sink into what seems like a black whole mentally. I search for ways to restore an emotional connection and pulling out a familiar song has been one of the most successful ways to accomplish that.
How music transformed my visits with my parents.
My parents live at a health care center. My dad is in their locked memory care hall. He wanders constantly. I don’t mind wandering with him, but I long for a few minutes where we can have a meaningful visit. The activity director at their home brings in musical guests regularly. And in the memory care hall they play videos such as Bill and Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends: Church In the Wildwood .
Obviously, live music is entertaining and gives the residents an enjoyable activity, but I have discovered it is much more than that.
Me, Mom and Musical Bingo
One day while visiting my mom we were able to play Musical Bingo. This experience was an eye-opener to just how powerful music is for seniors who do and don’t have dementia.
One lovely lady, who no longer communicated much, began to sing the lyrics to every song. She could remember just about every word. It was at this moment I realized I may have found a way to have more meaningful visits with my dad.
I began doing some research on music and its effect on memory.
Somehow, I knew including music in my visits with my dad was going to make a difference in our visits. Boy was I right. One of the websites that has some great information on what music does in the minds of people with memory loss is Memory and Music. I encourage you to check them out.
3 Ways Music Makes visits More Meaningful.
- Music gets my dad to settle down for a few minutes. It is a bit like when David would play music to quiet the evil spirit of King Saul (1 Samual 16:23). It doesn’t get much more evil than Alzheimer Disease. But music does soothe and calm. I loved being able to pull out my phone, bring up a song he was familiar with and start singing together. He would sit still for a while and I felt we were really sharing something again.
- Music bridges the gap when there is a struggle with communication. Visiting someone with memory loss can be discouraging. My niece mentioned that she didn’t know what to say or do. Music can give you something to do together. When my dad and i started singing a song together it didn’t matter if he remembered my name or what our relationship was or what he did that day because we had found a new connection.
- Music seems to jump start their memory. There are experiences, smells and stories attached to some songs that are re-ignited by the sound of a song. They may not remember their nurses name, but by jove they remember Perry Como and The Everly Brothers. I once played the following video of my son, Ethan singing a cover of The Everly Brothers’ song, “All I Have To Do Is Dream” with our friend Miles and he sang along the whole time.
So, the next time you are looking for a fresh way to connect with your loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, pull out your phone or a CD player and let the music begin.
Thanks for reading.
Until Next Time,
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