Tools for engaging and stimulating those with dementia/Alzheimer's, including the use of music from their younger years.

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I did a search for a documentary I watched recently called "Alive Inside," but didn't find any specific mention of it on AC. The documentary shows how music can bring happiness to those who are experiencing severe memory loss and the inability to communicate that goes with it. About five years ago, I had first hand experience of playing music for, and dancing with, my 103 yo grandmother, and afterwards she would be at her most liveliest and most able to communicate. She would tell me stories about her childhood, ask relevant questions about things, and otherwise be happy and engaged for a few minutes. She was mentally stimulated by the music, though I didn't put that together at the time. I played music from her younger years, plus reminded her of popular tunes ("Happy Birthday," "Jingle Bells," etc.). She would be so delighted and happy and sing along where she could to songs I couldn't believe she remembered. I thought I'd start a discussion about the effect of music on those with memory loss because it's not a well-known treatment, and I think there is a place for it in any memory care treatment or facility. Also, if anyone wants to add other things that bring happiness to those with dementia - fidget mats or other things - I'd like to learn more about things that bring happiness and some quality of life to those who need it.

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Early on, I got upset when my wife forgot who I was. I tended to argue with her, which I found was the wrong strategy. But after getting her somewhat distressed with my arguing, I found that music settled her back down again. Now we listen to music frequently and when we go for rides in the car, we play music and she sings along all the time. The rides and music have drawn us closer than almost anything else that we do.
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Momdoesnt ~ I, for one, appreciate the different small details in the 2 answers, so I'm glad you answered twice.

I agree, there is a basic human joy that the music gives, and a connection that people with dementias feel when they hear certain music... and that's why I thought it was worth talking about on AC. I'm glad you have discovered this with your mom and are able to give that to her in spite of the effects of the disease. :-)
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I'm sorry for answering this twice, there was a pop up that said there was an error.
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I look up songs on u tube that my Mom has sheet music of and she loves it. I use the smart tv/dvd player so she can see it clearly. I hand her the sheet music to watch the score or find one that has the words. It takes her back to ole Frank, Perry and Tom. It helps to put a smile on her face for a while anyway, that's what we are trying to do, just give a few moments of pleasure. If you don't have a smart tv, just move your dear one in front of the pc or put speakers on loud enough for them to hear. Think of how we love to see an infant smile, that same reaction is what I try to witness on my Mom's face, it gives me joy.
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I look my Mom's sheet music up on youtube via my blu-ray player's apps so she can see it on the TV screen and she loves it. I like to hand her the music so she can follow along with the score, or you can find the same tune on youtube that has the words. She thinks she is with Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tom Jones, etc.
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I have also read of people who have lost all ability to speak from stroke who can still sing. The brain is still a mysterious thing!
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Cwillie ~ I wasn't familiar with "snozelen room." :-) Thank you, cool stuff.
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GA ~ In the documentary "Alive Inside," there was a music therapist who played for those with memory loss and mental illness. It was profound to watch the change that music brought to these people. The therapist was an African man, and the documentary showed him going back to places in Africa where all the women had been scarred by rape and war. It was very touching to watch him give healing to these women through music.

Thanks for sharing, GA. I didn't know about "music therapy" or "art therapy" before this documentary. I knew it was one of the 3 natural things commonly recommended for mood improvement -- music, exercise, and animals -- but I didn't know that it could connect us to parts of our brains that are different from the speech communication parts. That's very cool and something people who have dementias could benefit from.
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Jazzy ~ are you able to search for the documentary that inspired this post and watch it? I watched "Alive Inside" on my Netflix service. It's $9 per month and that documentary is included in their extensive offerings. You might be able to get a free trial from them or find the documentary elsewhere online for a small one-time fee. (Amazon dot com also has a movie streaming service.)

In the documentary, I noticed a couple of things that the program facilitator did differently. He used small mp3 listening devices and headphones. I thought the headphones were a nice touch in this case. Also, the main person conducting the experimental program spoke to how music and memory connect in our brain in a different way than speech does. Documentaries are edited for more powerful content, and I get that, but watching the doc was very moving and made a strong point for using music as a way to connect those with memory issues to parts of themselves they can no longer access. (I don't know how else to put that.)

My thoughts when posting this were about what I had seen in the documentary, about how music was used as a tool to temporarily bypass severe memory loss. It reminded me of what had happened with my grandmother and I wanted to start a thread about it.

I like how they used the music in the documentary, with the mini mp3 players (you can get one for $10-$20) loaded with the favorite music of the person's life, and either play through a speaker or through headphones.

I think it would be a nice form of entertainment, a soothing distraction for those with memory issues.

I know that many assisted livings, et al, have music included in programs for their residents, but many family caregivers care for their charge at home, too.

So... just making mention of it on AC because I didn't see another thread about it. :-)
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I don't play an instrument but I guess I could learn!
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