Dementia and Music Therapy

AliceOver the weekend, Gail had a wonderful experience and shares this photo and the 90th Birthday celebration that created some wonderful memories for her and her family:

Caregivers of people with dementia so seldom have the opportunity to experience a joyful celebration with their loved ones.

I feel blessed to have been part of a wonderful 90th birthday party for my sister-in-law, Alice. Yes, her name really is Alice, just like in the movie.

A close family like ours treasures these moments of normalcy so much so that we were all willing to take a chance on bringing Alice home from Long Term Care for the day. We did know there was a possibility it could become a truly unhappy occasion for all if Alice felt anxious or angry or frustrated.

But we had an ace-in-the-hole… MUSIC. Our family is steeped in barbershop harmony; young and old sing and know the words to the golden oldies and feel the rhythm. Alice does too! When she is singing and bopping to the music, the negative emotions that seem to go hand-in-hand with dementia disappear. Alice is one of us, singing the same words and the same tunes, her shuffling gait replaced with a bouncing, lighter-than-air, whole body dance. Best of all, she is smiling broadly and there is a familiar and heart-warming twinkle in her eye and happy tears in ours.

The Divas had a wonderful chat with Teepa Snow, Dementia Educator and Keynote Speaker at this year’s Caregiver Show about music therapy and its role in helping families cope with dementia. I had the pleasure of seeing the proof at Alice’s birthday party.

Music reaches into a different place in the brain and in the soul. It gives someone with dementia, depression, aphasia and a host of other medical conditions, a way to connect with the world and with us.

It’s easier for our family because we sing all the time. We have all those songs in common and don’t need accompaniment.

Families without our musical background may need to prepare. They can load an MP3 player with Mom’s favourite songs from the good ol’ days, listen to them and learn them enough to sing and dance along. With that simple tool, though, they can give Mom the magic of connection. Even if the only response is a tapping toe and a moment of true peace of mind, it is a gift for everyone.

Find out more about Alzheimer Toronto’s iPod Project.

JOIN us at The Caregiver Show to hear Teepa Snow and discover other ways music therapy, pet therapy and horticultural therapy, can support you on your caregiving journey.