The power of music with Alzheimer’s patients is well-known in 2016. I think we humans have known intuitively for years that music with our elderly parents or grandparents is much-loved and appreciated, but now we have the research, the clinical studies, and even full-length documentary films that chronicle the lives of elderly patients who no longer know their family members and lifelong friends.
Growing old is hard enough. Experiencing the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s is unbelievably cruel. Can you imagine not know where you are, or what year it is, or even who you are? Can you imagine not recognizing your children, your spouse, or your friends? My friend and mentor, Joel Elkes, MD, described it this way: When you have Alzhiemer’s disease it’s as though all of the “doors” to cognition in the brain, close. But there is one door that remains open, and the door is the door to music.
I have seen people in Alzheimer’s units who had no idea where they were or why they were there, and basically they sat in the wheelchairs all day, not speaking, and barely eating. But when I started play the old familiar songs from their “Courting Years,” songs such as “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” and “Let me Call you Sweetheart,” they not only showed signs of recognition, but they sometimes would sing along, smile, and tap their fingers or toes in time to the music!
I even made a CD of music specifically for elderly with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s called “Music for Memory Care” and has familiar old songs from approximately 1900-late 1050’s. They are all played on a grand piano by me and come with a download of all the lyrics.
If you have a friend or relative with dementia or Alzheimer’s, try to find out what music they loved and responded to when they were teenagers or twenty-somethings! You can probably find these songs on YouTube at the very least! If you are able to sing them with the individual, that’s even better! Let me know if I can help! 😉