Margaret is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and resides at a local skilled nursing facility. I hadn’t seen her in over three months as she sleeps nearly 20 hours per day. When she is awake, it is clear that both her body and her mind are losing ground each day.
When I saw her recently, Margaret was being brought into the activity room by two nursing aides. She was babbling endlessly as she shuffled into the room and her voice reminded me of the loon from the old movie ‘On Golden Pond’. The thought ‘crazy as a loon’ popped into my head as she settled into her chair.
But as I began to play music from her youth, the babbling stopped and soon, she was singing! ‘When you’re smiling, when your smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” She had perfect meter and remembered every word. At the end of the song, she looked up with sparking eyes and said, “Beautiful, simply beautiful.” As I played Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Way You Look tonight’, she joined in once again and sang nearly every word. For the next 45 minutes, Margaret sang along with over a dozen songs. And for a brief season, her mind seemed to be free from the horror of Alzheimer’s.
Therapeutic Music – that is familiar to a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient – often helps them reconnect with their past and recover forgotten song lyrics. It is absolutely amazing to see tired eyes light up, revealing glimpses of a beautiful life and spirit that usually lie buried beneath the shroud of this dreadful disease.
It is my life mission to one day see Therapeutic Musicians as common in health care facilities as nurses and physicians. Modern medicine and various technologies are able to effectively treat most of the ailments that afflict us. Yet, I have witnessed hundreds of instances where Therapeutic Music relieved stress, pain, anxiety and agitation when the medicine alone could not. As a hospice nurse once told me, “Therapeutic Music is able to touch patients in places where our medicines can’t reach.” Music Moves Us!