Posts Tagged ‘connect’

Using Music to Connect With a Person Who Has Alzheimer’s

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Ed & the Violinist 1




It’s well-known that music often reaches people with Alzheimer’s in a way we cannot. But sometimes it’s better not to use it. Learning when to use music and when to not use it is the trick. Here are some examples.

My Romanian life partner, Ed, had always loved classical music. So I once put on a Mozart symphony and pretended to be conducting. I emulated the flashy type of conductor he loved. When I finished he looked at me with wonder and whispered, “What you did was so beautiful!”

Another way I used music with Ed was that I hired a classical violinist to come and play a concert just for Ed in his room. He was absolutely ecstatic

I visit several ladies with Alzheimer’s at a local memory care facility. Some just love listening to music – others don’t. I have asked each what type of music she likes and I have tried playing music for most of them.

Two loved it deeply. For example, Ruth (not her real name) loves big band music. When I play it for her she is transformed into one of the happiest people you’d ever want to meet.

Another lady (Carolyn – since deceased) also loved music – especially Tchaikovsky. So I played selections of the Nutcracker Suite every time. She smiled and tapped out the rhythms on her lap. And she thanked me so much for bringing the music

There are times, however, when it would probably be better not do so. For example, as much as Carolyn loved listening to Tchaikovsky, when her health deteriorated considerably she once told me that the music was confusing. I realized that I should stop bringing music for her.

This goes to show that while a person may love music at one stage of their illness, their desire to hear it may change over time, and it’s important to continually monitor their interest.

Another lady, Ethel, is a devoted Christian. So I took some hymns to play for her. She didn’t show any reaction to the music. She was far more interested in my portable CD player. So I continued playing the hymns, but it was to give her the pleasure of seeing the CD player, not necessarily hearing the music.

Still another of “my ladies,” Nancy, loved Elvis. But when I played it for her she became distressed. She told me it was so beautiful it made her cry. Consequently, I don’t play Elvis anymore.

When I asked Sue what kind of music she liked, she said, “Oh, I don’t know. I’d rather not sit around listening to music.”  She said this in a fairly stern tone of voice, so I don’t play any music for her either.

Does anyone have any stories related to using or not using music at your visits?


Caregiving Pearls

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

1.    Don’t Be in Denial: It’s only natural to be in denial when a loved one begins to show signs of dementia, but that only prevents the person from getting a diagnosis, starting treatment, and planning for the future.

 2.    Don’t Ask, “Do You Remember?” Of course they can’t remember. If they could remember they wouldn’t be diagnosed with dementia. Asking if they remember some person or event could make them frustrated.

 3.    Do Interact With the Person at His or Her Level:  You may want to interact with the person the way you always have, but that isn’t going to be possible. Instead, figure out at what age they appear to be behaving, then connect with them at that level.

 4.    To Connect With People Who Have Alzheimer’s, Put Something Meaningful in Their Hand: This is a valuable tip provided by Tom and Karen Brenner in their book, You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care. You may have to experiment some to find out what is meaningful to any specific person.

 5.    To Connect With People With Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Try Introducing Them to Children, Pets, Music or Art:  These four activities will often reach people in the late stages of the illness – even if they hardly talk anymore. 

6.    Don’t Argue, Correct or Disagree: You can’t win an argument with a person who has dementia – so don’t even try. Neither should you contradict them. It will make them dig in their heels even more strongly.

 7.    Don’t Bring up Topics That May Upset the Person: If you know your loved one will get upset if you talk about politics, for example, don’t start the conversation in the first place. It will probably lead to a battle you don’t want to have.

 8.    Do Quickly Change the Subject If the Person Does Get Upset: If the person does get upset one of the best things you can do is redirect their attention to something else, preferable something pleasant.

 9.    Don’t Quit Visiting When the Person Doesn’t Know Who You Are:  Just because your loved one does not recognize you doesn’t mean they have no feelings. People with Alzheimer’s may enjoy being visited even if they don’t know precisely who the visitor is.

 10.  Do Take Care of Yourself:  Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver is hard work. The gold standard book on Alzheimer’s caregiving isn’t entitled The 36-Hour Day for nothing. Take good care of yourself for your benefit and for the good of the person for whom you’re caring. You can’t be an effective, compassionate caregiver if you’re exhausted and burned out all the time.


A Valuable Resource for You: Tryn Rose Seley’s 15 Minutes of Fame

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Tryn Rose Seley’s book, 15 Minutes of Fame, is a gold mine for caregivers of people with dementia. This brief and concise 35-page book has the subtitle One Photo Does Wonders to Bring You Both Back to Solid Ground. It is full of positive, practical and uplifting advice for enriching the lives of people with Alzheimer’s.

The book’s focus is “Empowering Caregivers of Those With Alzheimer’s.” It is intended to enable professional or family caregivers to entertain, engage and build trust with people who have dementia. The proposed approach is to share personal and meaningful stories, photos, songs and other materials with the person for at least 15 minutes per day.

According to Tryn Rose, “This improves daily mood, energy and hope for you and the one you care for. The ideas in the book,” she continues, “turn a stressful or ordinary day into an extraordinary one, sparking creativity and gratitude on this path of caregiving.”

The book contains numerous examples from the author’s experience as a caregiver. These illustrate how easy it is to implement the ideas advanced in the book.

Ms. Seley says it’s also important to leave stories and other materials in the person’s room (either at home or in a long-term care community) so that other caregivers or visitors can see and share them with the person. In this way a “circle of care” can be developed.

In conclusion, this is a wonderful, inspirational, and motivating book with clear and easy to follow strategies for transforming the days of people with dementia (or other special needs for that matter).

The book is available in Kindle format on If you prefer a PDF, you may download it on the author’s website.

Note: Tryn Rose Seley is a professional caregiver, photographer, and a sought-after musician who makes presentations and offers workshops on various aspects of dementia for interested communities and organizations. You can email her at and follow her on Twitter: @TrynRose.



Connecting with Early to Mid Stage Alzheimer’s Patients

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

At the early stage you can often share in whatever fun activities the person enjoyed before developing Alzheimer’s. Some games may need to be adjusted, however, to accommodate your loved one’s diminishing mental capacity. For example, you may need to play a child’s card game instead of bridge; checkers instead of chess. Or, if the person previously enjoyed jigsaw puzzles, you may need to find ones with fewer and larger pieces.

At the mid stage of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s may have more or less the mental and social skills of a toddler. While it’s excellent to do the standbys – things like looking at old pictures or watching movies together, those are somewhat passive.

With a little thought you can find more active ways to spend time together, such as giving your loved one toys or other “props” that the two of you play with together. The key words here are “play” and “together.”  If you find some item the person really likes, you can use your imagination to invent simple games to play together with it.

Some people with Alzheimer’s cannot be reached by any means, but try experimenting with the ideas mentioned here. You may be amazed to find your loved one can suddenly function at a higher level and become happier when involved in these types of activities. And that can bring joy to both of you.

Has anyone tried these strategies? Have you tried other things that worked? If so, please share so we can all learn from your experiences.