Art, Creativity, Information, Writing

#Music and Memories~Helping #Dementia patients find #Joy #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Simon Falk, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Mary J. Giese, Peter Nena and myself.

I am a firm believer in the healing power of creativity whether it’s in the form of art, writing or music.  Music has always been a part of my life, although I am totally tone deaf and can’t play or sing a note, I grew up with music in my home and it’s still a big part of my life. Growing up I had musicians in my family and our weekends were often filled with friends, family and music. My Grandmother lived with us and although deceased, stories of my Grandad’s musical endeavours were a told with gusto. Now I’m married to a musician and true to tradition most of our get-togethers revolve around music. Although listening to music is very different from playing music, I think music triggers something in us, it has power, it brings alive memories and transforms us.


I came across this video a while back and it resonated with me.  My Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s twenty years ago.  She lived through WWII in London, married my Grandad, the love of her life and had two beautiful daughters.  Although I never met Grandad, through her stories I felt like I knew and loved him. Some of my earliest memories of my Grandmother revolved around music, she would dig out her old vinyl records to play the songs my Grandad performed and she would always end up singing and dancing.  By 2003 the Alzheimer’s had progressed and our family had no choice but to place her in a nursing home. Most days my grandmother would be non-responsive and no longer recognised us.  We would visit regularly and often the home would host a music night for patients where an oldies band would come to entertain. We would often visit on these nights. As soon as the first note was played my grandmother sat straighter, took notice and for the first time in a long time…smiled. Then when the singer would start, my grandmother would jump right in and sing along. She was happy, she still wouldn’t remember us or even my grandad’s passing, but remembered the lyrics to almost every song. It brought her back to those days listening to the love of her life on stage. As family members, we mourn the loss of our loved one’s memories; they forget almost everything and everyone, both the good and the bad. Throughout life she had endured more than her fair share of tragedies but what rang true to me that day was perhaps this disease was a blessing in disguise. Gone were the losses and hardships and her good memories were accessed by something as simple as a song.  Although she passed nine months ago, seeing her smile those nights was perhaps the best gift I could have ever received, it reaffirms that sometimes during difficult times there are always hidden blessings if you look for them.

 For more on how Music and Memory helps elderly residents and facility patients, to volunteer or to donate iPods, please visit www.MusicandMemory.org Get FREE resources on the project! Volunteer an iPod drive! Find a local facility you can help!

For more information or to join our #WATWB please click here! 

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45 thoughts on “#Music and Memories~Helping #Dementia patients find #Joy #WATWB”

  1. Belinda, this is just stunning, on so many levels. Your gracious, thoughtful intro… and the post. Just beautiful. When my Dad died a few years ago, we got my Mother a iPod and I gave her my old iPad. When the TV was no help she could listen to music at mealtimes. Life without music would be unbearable. 🙂

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  2. Belinda, as a daughter of a mom with dementia, this brought tears to my eyes. I had thought about music as stimulation for her mind, but she also has a severe hearing loss. Music tends to sound like “noise” to her. I’m so glad that music gave happiness and love to the people in the video and I would love to see this as a program in many nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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    1. So sorry to hear about your mother. Sadly with hearing loss music isn’t an option. With my Grandmother she also responded to smells. I always carried Rose or Lavender hand lotion in my purse and would give her a hand massage. The smells would always trigger stories of her gardens in England (she had over 200 rose bushes…I’d heard the story a few times 😉 ) and if she had been having a bad day it would soothe her. My heart goes out to you and your famiy. Thanks

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    2. I’ll have to try that next time, Belinda. I’m not sure what fragrance she would like, but I’ll try something flowery first. Mom always loved to have flowers in the yard, so…

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    3. Good luck let me know how it goes. Those were my Grandmother’s favourites but I know a friend whose Mom was a baker and loved the smell of Vanilla. Tactile triggers worked too…I crochet, so I made a afghan with various textured yarns, everything from super soft to bubbled. She would play with the bubbled sections and stroke the soft ones…..anything to bring her joy or comfort her.

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  3. What a beautiful story, and like you, Belinda, one close to my heart as well. My father had Alzheimer’s, and although we were lucky to be able to care for him at home, it was challenging and heart-breaking. But music was such a gift to him (and us) as it transported him to some gentler, less terrifying place.
    It’s lovely seeing this investigated and used on a wider level.

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  4. I agree with you. I’ve come to think that some aspects of Alzheimer’s are a blessing. My FIL has it– and because he’s forgotten so much he is no longer bitter and resentful about perceived injustices. Thank you for putting into words something that’s been on the edges of my mind. This is a lovely contribution to #WATWB.

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    1. It’s hard to find the positive in something like Alzheimer’s but during the later stages of the disease she seemed so at peace. She had endured so much tragedy and carried it with her throughout life, in her later years most of it was forgotten. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

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  5. I’m scared of getting old…living with two aging in laws and seeing their slow deterioration is scary. But this is something that we will all have to deal with isn’t it? Unless we are lucky to go with our minds still in place.

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    1. I think it’s something we all struggle with particularly if Alzheimer’s/Dementia runs in the family. For me I try to keep my mind active…not a guarantee but it’s suggested it might help. Guess we take it one day at a time. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Sorry, I didn’t mean that I was giving a talk on the subject. I was just talking to people after the other talks, which were about the brain, neurodegenerative disease, and neural plasticity. A physician brought up the observation that PD patients can be brought back to be able to move with music. I had heard that it was especially helpful if the music was emotionally important to them, and mentioned that. Sometimes just a small trigger can wake up a whole circuit in the brain that had been dormant.

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    2. Sorry I misunderstood….but sounds like your day was very interesting. There is so much we still have to learn about the brain but I think we are just scratching the surface. If you’re interested in neuroplasticity, have you read any of Norman Doidge’s books? He is quite interesting and has quite a few talks on youtube… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWMZQy1yiXk they are not music related but his talks are about the brains ability to heal. 🙂 Do you have any favorite authors who write on the subject (perhaps targeted more towards the layman)?

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  6. Hi Belinda – Alzheimer’s or Dementia is so sad … and having been visiting my mother for over 5 years in Nursing Centres I was so relieved she could still talk after some massive strokes – I’m not sure I’d have ‘survived’ otherwise ( of course I would, but you know …) what a wonderful story. Having been in these situations – I picked up other scenarios … and it’s always good for us to learn … lovely post – thank you … Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/we-are-world-in-darkness-be-light-2.html

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  7. Music and memory is a very important topic.
    As an educator; and a musician who reads, plays and teaches music, I’m also a strong believer in the healing power of art, and especially music. So this is close to my heart. 🙂

    As Dr. Sacks mentioned: “With music therapy in Alzheimer’s patients, something very powerful and primal is at work.” And we’ve since come to discover that music occupies more areas of our brain than language does, which makes us, undoubtedly, a musical species. Then there is also the ongoing debate as to whether music and language evolved in tandem, or separately from one another.
    Music is older than language? Who knows for sure…
    So this helps us to understand why non-responsive Alzheimer’s patients respond more to music, rather than language, and reinforces the importance of musical therapy.

    It also explains why so many people from different walks of life, including doctors and lawyers, and established people in other prominent professions, always audition for the Idols singing competition. Music seems to be the most sought after career! LOL

    Just a few thoughts. It’s a fascinating topic which I’d love to explore further (when I have the time)
    Thanks for sharing, Belinda!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly! Music and art seem to be a universal language of their own! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing! Wishing you a wonderful weekend! 🙂

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