Saturday, April 21, 2012

For Elders With Dementia, Musical Awakenings : NPR comments2

(This is a copy of the original NPR page.  -M)
Comments on:

For Elders With Dementia, Musical Awakenings

Scott Donaldson (ScottDon)
This is such an inspiration! Thanks for this article and these tips. Can hardly wait to see the full film. Music and the arts are so valuable for those with Alzheimer's. We have found that painting to music works well with our mother, calms her, helps her communicate. We first learned about the magic of the arts & Alzheimer's from seeing a documentary "I Remember When I Paint". Truly amazing. In case of interest, here is an another article that inspired us "Art & Alzheimer's: Another Way of Remembering"
April 19, 2012 1:39:32 PM EDT
Amy Bogetto-Weinraub (musiclives)
It's great to read about the effects of music on people of any age, diagnosis, challenge, ect. However, as a board certified music therapist, I keep thinking to myself (and sometimes saying aloud as I'm reading) where is the music therapist in this article? Music therapists have been donig this work since 1950. It's great that soical workers, recreation therapists, and other activity therapist are incorporating music in their settings, but it is much more clinical and professional to have a music therapist doing the work and taking it to even more theraputic levels. Please refer to our music therapy websites for more information: and
April 19, 2012 12:33:46 PM EDT
Kate Fuller (KateFuller)
My 88 year old dad has Alzheimer's & dementia & lives with us. My husband is a musician. While my dad rides a stationary bike in my husband's studio, Chuck plays live cocktail music on the piano for my dad. Listening to cowboy music helps my dad calm down when he is experiencing "sundowners syndrome".
April 19, 2012 12:26:19 PM EDT
John Adams (Chazz11)
When someone is labeled with "dementia" or any other serious mental disorder, those around the person begin to draw back and stop expecting ANY cognitive competence, leaving the labeled person to suffer isolation; then still more disability results.

Alzheimer's is thus a social disease. We around the labeled elder must resist the tendency to give up on competence, and actively look for remaining abilities and exercise them. If long-term memory lasts, then any activity relying on that ability fits the bill.

Music is certainly one of the best. But so is reminiscence, storytelling, memoir and autobiographical writing. I like the first two because you get social interaction as a bonus with using LT memory. Cooking and sharing traditional meals from the elder's childhood has a similar effect as music, in that our sense of smell is as powerful as hearing familiar sounds...and we physically nourish ourselves as we do it!

Imagine an art gallery displaying elder's visual art while playing music from the age cohort's time. A big garden space surrounding it, with wheelchair access and paths wide enough to let two chairs pass. In Portland we have Amy Henderson's Geezer Gallery, and similar community gathering places popping up everywhere.
April 19, 2012 12:24:55 PM EDT
Sharon Holtkamp (sholtkamp)
Please contact Deforia Lane, PhD (Music Therapy)and Michael DeGeorgia, MD (Neurocritical Care) at University Hospitals of Cleveland about their extraordinary work with music restoring an altered gait, mind, neural pathways. Attend the annual fascinating "Music and the Mind" one-day synposium held every fall as part of a larger Neurocritical Care conference.
April 19, 2012 11:31:12 AM EDT
John D (zeke7237)
Next time the verse came around we looked throughout the entire audience, and we found the singer ... he was in the very back row, he's have his head down for the verses (and had been down through the show up to that point) but when the chorus came around he'd lift his head, eyes still closed, and belt it out with a gorgeous voice!

Still gives me the shivers thinking about it today ...
April 19, 2012 11:11:01 AM EDT
John D (zeke7237)
I've seen this with my own eyes ...

From the early 1990s until the mid 2000s I worked as a volunteer sound engineer for the Merle Watson Memorial Bluegrass Festival held annually in Wilkesboro, NC. My job was to go out with my partner Gary and set up sound systems at schools, nursing homes, and other community venues so that festival performers could put on free shows for the people in the county.

One year we were doing a gig at a nursing home in Wilkesboro; the performer was George Hamilton IV, a gospel/country singer popular in the 60s. Nursing home gigs were set up in the community room or cafeteria, and as we are setting up and testing they start bringing in the residents. They generally arrange the audience such that the "awake" folks were in the front, with the level of "awakeness" decreasing until you got to the unresponsive ones in the back.

George IV kicked off his show, and about 20 minutes in he was doing some kind of train song (I'm not much into the 60's country scene). It was a typical song, lots of verses and a catchy chorus. A couple of choruses in, I noticed a beautiful strong baritone voice .. I scanned the front rows and didn't see anyone who looked like they could be making that much sound. continued..
April 19, 2012 11:09:06 AM EDT
Uncle Wally (Retroman)
Oliver Sacks has been writing about this for years (he was the original "Awakenings" doctor).
April 19, 2012 9:19:20 AM EDT
Kris Snyder (KrisSnyder)
I have worked as a Certified Music Practitioner for 12 years and can testify to the power of LIVE therapeutic music. I work on a lock-down dementia unit and have had residents who were suffering from aphasia suddenly belt out songs in response to my playing "Beautiful Dreamer" on my harp. Ipods and other devices are nice, but they cannot respond to the immediate needs of the resident/patient. I have had end stage cancer patients report that they don't need their pain medication because the music 'takes it away'... therapeutic music is a wonderful tool - To learn more about live therapuetic music, please visit!
April 19, 2012 9:12:09 AM EDT
JDR INCA (jrinca)
My grandfather spent the last two years of his life largely isolated in his head. One day when I was visiting him in his nursing home, a school group came in to sing Christmas carols. Even though he rarely spoke anymore, he lifted his chin off his chest and sang Silent Night in his strong baritone voice. He got every word right.
April 19, 2012 3:15:25 AM EDT
niel devi (OrangeW3dge)
So that means we have to dust off "Sympathy For The Devil", when the Boomers take to the rocking chair? "Are You Experienced?"
April 19, 2012 1:47:13 AM EDT
Summer Foertsch (SummerFoertsch)
To those asking why iPods and not records, cassettes, or CDs, I'm guessing it's cheaper in the long run and more practical.

1) You can buy one song instead of an entire album. That is HUGE.
2) Records, cassettes, and CDs can be damaged/broken and will lose sound quality over time. If you're going to let multiple patients share music, you'd be looking at replacing albums every several years or less.
3) iPods or any mp3 player will be easy to move from one patient's room to another and can be taken on the go or while exercising.
4) The patient doesn't have to deal with fast-forward/rewind like they would with cassettes.

I did wonder about how easily an elderly dementia patient can use an iPod, but apparently, it's possible.
April 19, 2012 1:29:15 AM EDT
Richard Spinner (running_dog)
I recently visited a friend. His mother-in-law was there. She is well into her 90s and suffers from severe dementia. His wife put on a CD of Antonio Aguilar Rancheras and as soon as she heard "Triste Recuerdos" a woman who I had never heard speak before broke into nightingale voice plaintively sighing:

El tiempo pasa y no te puedo olvidar (Time passes and I still cannot forget you)

There is a key somewhere in the structure of music, since the beginning of civilization, before the written word, that unlocks the door to our memories.
April 19, 2012 1:04:18 AM EDT
John Myers (mrtwilight23)
What an incredible video - it was like Henry was suddenly plugged back into the universe.
April 18, 2012 11:30:02 PM EDT
Ron Goodman (Tahoe)
Aaron Wolf (ACWolf) wrote:
I wish the "iPod" thing hadn't taken over like "Kleenex" — well, esp. because it hasn't yet transferred to being a generic term that applies to any digital music player. The technology is great, and music is great, but Apple doesn't deserve any credit here.
Especially when their stock is at $600 per share and they are paying $1.50 per hour for labor.
April 18, 2012 11:29:36 PM EDT
Kawanna Ridout (Konnier)
My father had a very popular dance band for over 50 years. After he retired he joined a group of other old musician friends who entertained at nursing homes. One day they were performing, and a couple who had followed the band for years were there. she was an alzheimer patient. when she heard my fathers voice she raised her arms to dance with her husband and for the length of the song, she was present. He hired the little band to play once a week until he passed away. To music therapists please understand it's not just any music - it's the patient's music memory, their favorite, their happiest times.
April 18, 2012 11:27:08 PM EDT
mska sweet (mska)
Cool story, but I don't understand why Cohen is so hell-bent on finding a way to pay for all those iPods. Tape cassettes and records aside (it is pretty hard to even find a record player anymore, and I don't recall seeing any with earphone jacks), there are a lot of generic and much more affordable mp3 players out there, for a fraction of the price of an iPod.
April 18, 2012 11:16:11 PM EDT
Timothy Heater (WheezeHLR)
Yea! Another great social worker in action! Social workers provide the majority of psychotherapy in the united States.
April 18, 2012 11:06:02 PM EDT
Aaron Wolf (ACWolf)
I happy to see all the positive stuff, music etc.

I wish the "iPod" thing hadn't taken over like "Kleenex" — well, esp. because it hasn't yet transferred to being a generic term that applies to any digital music player. The technology is great, and music is great, but Apple doesn't deserve any credit here. Furthermore, none of this even required the new digital technology really. Even CD players or cassette players would have worked here.
April 18, 2012 10:43:14 PM EDT
craig barnes (craigo)
Why do they make it sound as though "Ipods" were the only way to access music . What about the tactile sensation of placing an LP on a turntable . Most of us old timers grew up with phonographs.
April 18, 2012 10:02:35 PM EDT

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