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My Mom is suffering from dementia. What forms on nonthreatening interaction can she anticipate? She can communicate, but her skills have diminished. I would like to make certain that she feels safe.

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Music and art are both therapeutic. Many people with dementia find new talents when they are given these opportunities. Others just want to listen to music from their youth or even well known hymns.

MP3 players can be loaded with favorites, so that's a simple way to put them together. I had to keep changing my dad's CDs, which was fine but harder to keep up.

I hope that music and or art will help your mom. I know finding just the right thing isn't easy. Also, some days will be better than others, but I'd give it a try.

Take care,
Carol
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Hello poecat! In answer to your question both as an Occupational Therapy Assistant and now a caregiver for my own mother with dementia, music therapy has been proven to help people with Alzheimers and dementia. Not only does it calm them down and improve their mood, but it also seems to help them remember certain times of their lives. My own mom is 87 and at the moderately severe level of her dementia. She has always enjoyed music and used to play piano pretty well. A couple of years ago I took her to the library to get her sheet music she discovered she was no longer able to play piano anymore due to arthritis in her hands and probably also not being able to keep her mind on the sheet music long enough before forgetting her place. However, I often play either Big Band or Easy Listening music for her. It seems to bring her some enjoyment in her life since she really has little else that she can do any more other than watch TV. Occasionally we'll take her out to eat or I'll have her fold towels or helping make cookies, a salad, or jello. She used to be an avid reader and also wrote letters a lot, but she really can't do that anymore due to the deterioration in her language as well as cognitive skills such as attention span and memory. So music and TV is really pretty much all she has anymore. But I would say that in my experience most people with Alzheimer's or dementia respond very well to music therapy even in the nursing homes and assisted living centers that I worked at. Back when I worked in a nursing home we often had exercise groups where we would play various forms of music and the patients seemed to enjoy it - even the ones that were pretty out of it cognitively. Also, in the independent living center that I worked at as a manager we often had special live musical events and the residents really seemed to look forward to those. It really does seem to calm them and uplift their spirits. So in that sense, probably makes people with dementia feel safer too. There are even special CD's available nowadays specifically designed for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. So if you want to you might want to try googling it. Best of luck to you both!
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Music absolutely has been shown by research to stimulate parts of the brain that receive pleasure. Even those of us without dementia, music can evoke memories of past pleasures and sorrow, so make sure the music you choose is of her past pleasant events.
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To music therapy I give a great big YES! As a former nursing home Activity Director, I can say that musical programs are the most successful and pleasing to the residents, staff & visitors alike! Keep it upbeat for the most part with some soft & sentimental familiar tunes too. Research popular tunes for the era when the client was young & active.. Also you can do sing a-longs of favorite songs. There are professional music therapists that can help !
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What works for my mom is watching the old 'I love Lucy' episodes...some of them are so funny! She also likes 'Cops'. The problem with her liking these shows, is that she needs me to sit with her....or she'll get up and go to bed. Since she doesn't remember the individual shows, each episode is new to her, but I'm soooo sick of the same shows over and over. She was never much into music, and can't hear well enough now anyway. I don't even think she is watching the TV most of the time, but she still won't let me watch MY shows...
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Music has helped my mother in law a lot, she remembers music more than anything else. She is 77 and has moderate to sever Alzheimer's. She loves Tony Bennet and Sinatra, sometimes Barbra Streisand.anything like that, nothing too boisterous. I got lightweight headphones so I don't have to listen all the time :) I have also put on musicals for her (TV) She loves to watch Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific and others. Otherwise I try not to turn on the TV. She will just stare at it, not interactive enough. I have found that she will smile a lot with any TV show that has a lot of children in it. Try kids shows on PBS. Sounds weird but works sometimes. Good Luck, what works this week might not work next week as you know. :(
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Thanks lmcarthy! I will look for those cd's. I am sorry about your mom, she sounds like a wonderful woman. My mom was very musical as well. She died 3 years ago from breast cancer and Alzheimer's. And now my mother in law has Alz. It is a terrible thing to be going through this again.
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In my mom's facility, they have people come and entertain. She has always loved music so she really does love it. When she was able to communicate and walk, she would get people to get up and dance with her but now she sits and smiles when they sing. Hymns, country western or the oldies. Christine73, what are the CD's?
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Poecat, we used to put a favorite CD on before we left the SNF in the evening so that Mom would be lulled into relaxation at the end of her day. I used to bring music and play on the pianos as well. Once I took my mother and one of the other residents down to the room with the baby grand. As I played (and I'm by no means a competent player), I noticed people rolling their wheelchairs down the halls and into the room. It was really, really touching to see how many were affected by music.

I did the same thing when my father was recovering from a long illness. One time I was playing classical music and even the staff came in! When I played a waltz, one of the other visitors got up and began waltzing with an imaginary partner. I always ended with old songs that the residents could really relate to - they loved songs of their generation.

There are individuals and organizations that specifically focus on music therapy. Google "music therapy" for your area - you might find a local group that can help.

Reiiki is another therapy which is very helpful and soothing - there was a Reiiki therapist at the Infusion Center who would visit patients as they were undergoing chemotherapy.

Good luck on your quest!
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The CDs can be found in the Alzheimer's Store on alz.org.
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