Posts Tagged ‘music’

10 Things People With Alzheimer’s Taught Me

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I was a caregiver for Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner, for seven years when he had Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, I currently volunteer to make weekly visits to four women who live at Clare Bridge, a Brookdale Senior Living memory care facility in Overland Park, Kansas. (I refer to them as “my ladies.”) Here are the ten most important lessons these people have taught me.

  1. Simple pleasures can bring great joy to a person with Alzheimer’s
  1. People with Alzheimer’s usually enjoy getting gifts – no matter how small
  1. Pets, children, music and art may reach them on levels we cannot
  1. Just because they don’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly aware of what’s going on around them and what people are saying to and about them
  1. There’s usually no reason to tell them someone is dead (Tell them a white lie instead – that the person will be back soon)
  1. Correcting them about something will probably either embarrass them or else start a big argument
  1. People with Alzheimer’s usually adjust to change more quickly than we do and they soon forget unpleasant things that happen to them. We may be the ones who continue suffering
  1. They can still enjoy life, even if only for brief periods of time
  1. People with Alzheimer’s may remember past love and also experience love in the present
  1. People with Alzheimer’s can be humorous at times – Then we can laugh with them.

 

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?

 

5 Things I Learned From People With Alzheimer’s

Friday, February 21st, 2014

1.    Pets, children, music and art may reach them on levels we cannot: I have experienced numerous examples of the positive effects these things can have on people with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes pets, children, music or art can bring about connections even with people who no longer talk or recognize their loved ones.

2.    Just because they don’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly aware of what’s going on around them: One of my ladies didn’t talk anymore so when I visited I just held her hand and talked to her softly. When I told her she must be very proud of her daughter she adamantly shook her head from side to side, indicating ‘no.’ That told me she understood perfectly well what I was saying.

 3.    Correcting them about something will probably either embarrass them or else start a big argument: To avoid embarrassing the person or, even worse, to avoid a major argument, try agreeing with whatever they say, even if it’s wrong. It takes some time to master this approach, but it is usually successful.

4.    They can still enjoy life: Many people assume that people with Alzheimer’s can’t enjoy life. However, several experts I interviewed unanimously agreed that although Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, people who have it can and do still have the capacity to enjoy life.

5.    People with Alzheimer’s may remember past love and also experience love in the present: Once I showed Ed an old picture of us together. He said, “Ah . . . She loved me.” He didn’t realize I was the woman in the picture but he remembered that she had loved him.

 

Visiting Miss Daisy

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

“I’ve come to visit you, Miss. Daisy” I said in a perky tone of voice after introducing myself.

“Me?” she exclaimed – smiling, looking up at me, raising her eyebrows and putting her hand over her heart.

“Yes. You,” I answered, delighted by her excited reaction.

She had already won my heart. It was obvious she was thrilled to have me visit even if she had no earthly idea who I was.

Since retiring a few months ago, I’d decided to volunteer spending time with some local memory care facility residents who don’t have many visitors.

During our first visit I discovered her social skills are so good you’d think she’s volunteering to visit me!

During that first visit, I asked her, “What kind of music do you like?”

Without hesitation she blurted out, “classical!”

So for the next visit I wrapped up a CD of The Nutcracker Suite and gave it to her. She tore off the gift wrap and smiled real big when she saw what was inside.

But after a few minutes, her eyes became downcast, and she said “I’m sorry I don’t have anything to give you.”

To help her save face, I pointed out that she had some cookies on her table.

She laughed lightly and said, “Sure. Help yourself.”

When I soon asked if I could have another she said, “Take as many as you want.

They were some of the best cookies I ever tasted.

Then I put the disc into the slot of the portable CD player I’d brought along. It was immediately obvious that she was familiar with the selections. She smiled, moved in time to the music and used her hand to tap out the rhythms on her lap.

At the end of the visit she said, “I hope I see you again.”

“I’ll come visit you again next week.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” she said.

Then – as always – she insisted on walking with me to the front door. I moved beside her as she inched along ever so slowly, unsteadily pushing her walker down the short hallway. We shook hands then I left, feeling so happy that for that half hour at least, I had given her joy.

People With Alzheimer’s May Still “Be There”

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

There was a lady with Alzheimer’s whom I volunteered to visit once a week at a local memory care facility. I’m going to call her Carolyn. Before my first visit the administration told me she loved Elvis. So I bought an Elvis CD and took it, along with my portable CD player, to the visit.

After introducing myself I said, “I understand you love Elvis.”

“Elvis?” she asked with disbelief. “Where’d they get that?”

“Well, what kind of music do you like?” I asked her.

She tried very hard to pronounce Tchaikovsky. She never did get it right but I understood what she meant.

So the next time I took Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and played several selections for her. She was ecstatic. She smiled and tapped out the rhythms on her lap using both hands. She clapped enthusiastically at the end of each piece. It was a true joy to see her so happy.

Then Carolyn declined significantly. She was receiving hospice care and was always in bed when I arrived. Her eyes were usually closed, even though she was often awake. I talked to her but she never said anything back.

Nonetheless I kept playing the Nutcracker Suite for her every time. She showed no reaction whatsoever. I was frustrated but kept it up anyway.

Then one day I asked, “Do you like it?”

Her response was shocking to say the least.

She immediately opened her eyes widely and said in a loud, clear voice, “Very much.”

It was proof that she was still “there” – still aware of her surroundings even though she rarely acknowledged it and even though she was literally on her death bed. She died a week later.

People with Alzheimer’s – especially those in the later stages of the disease – may stop talking or making other clear attempts to communicate. Too often we assume they don’t know what’s going on around them. We think they don’t understand what people are saying to them or about them. My experience with Carolyn shows that’s not always the case.

 

Using iPods to Improve the Well Being of People With Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Research on the brains of people with dementia has shown that, even when they are no longer able to communicate verbally or recognize loved ones, they may still respond to their favorite music, often dramatically, and sometimes remembering all the lyrics to the songs played.

One approach to reconnecting persons with Alzheimer’s with beloved musical memories is to provide them with individualized music they can listen to whenever they want. It’s critical to provide them with the music they loved most before developing Alzheimer’s. This can be done by putting their favorite music on iPods for them.

To get started bring an iPod from home and try it out. Try to assemble between 80 and 100 songs (10-15 artists) initially. It has been shown that those with Alzheimer’s disease will become more alert, engaged and talkative if familiar music is played regularly month after month.

Amazingly, some long-term care facilities have even found that antipsychotic medications can be reduced by 50% when iPods are used throughout the facility.

Furthermore, since the use of iPods decreases agitation – one of the primary reasons people with Alzheimer’s are moved to nursing homes in the first place – many patients can remain in their homes longer.

 

Connecting With Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Patients

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The following four activities are virtually guaranteed to reach persons at all stages of Alzheimer’s: 1) Being visited by a child, 2) Being visited by a pet, 3) Listening to or performing music and 4) Observing or creating artwork.  

1. Being Visited by a Child

It’s a well-known fact that children can reach demented people at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot.

Children can play with people with Alzheimer’s. If you need some specific ideas check out the Alzheimer’s Association website, which has a list of 101 things a child can do with someone who has Alzheimer’s. (www.Alz.org)

2. Being Visited by a Pet 

Much like children, animals can often touch demented people more deeply than people can.

For example. at a nursing home there was a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient whose face someone’s dog licked when he held him up for her to see. The visitor told her the dog didn’t usually “kiss” people he didn’t know, and she immediately answered, “Dogs are very selective.” That was the first lucid remark she’d made for months.

3.  Listening to or Performing Music 

After listening to music some are clearly more calm, in a better mood and more outgoing than before, which improves the quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver. Music has even been found to help those with dementia retrieve some memories their caregivers had assumed were lost forever.

Often times late stage Alzheimer’s patients can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’ve lost the ability to recognize loved ones, dress themselves, or remember what happened five minutes earlier.

4.  Observing or Creating Artwork                     

 If your loved one is able to go out, a trip to an art museum could also be very beneficial. Just looking at art, much like listening to music, has been shown to calm dementia patients.

In the late stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients can often still create striking art work that allows them to express themselves and connect with their loved ones – even when they can no longer speak.

You can arrange various types of art projects for your loved one. Common activities include painting with water colors, coloring with crayons, making scrapbooks or molding objects out of clay.

Resources: 

There is an online store, Best Alzheimer’s Products, that features games for those with Alzheimer’s. http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/games-for-people-with-alzheimer’s.html.

For more specific ideas about how to use music to engage people who have dementia go to: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2011/11/music-and-alzheimers-disease-using.html.

Do any of you have any other ideas about connecting with late-stage patients? If so, please share them.

 

 

Connecting with Alzheimer’s Patients in the Latest Stage of the Disease

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

The following four activities are virtually guaranteed to reach persons at all stages of Alzheimer’s: 1) Being visited by a child, 2) Being visited by a pet, 3) Listening to or performing music and 4) Observing or creating artwork.  

1. Being Visited by a Child 

It’s a well-known fact that children can reach demented people at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot. 

Children can play with people with Alzheimer’s. If you need some specific ideas check out the Alzheimer’s Association website, which has a list of 101 things a child can do with someone who has Alzheimer’s. (www.Alz.org 

2. Being Visited by a Pet 

Much like children, animals can often touch demented people more deeply than people can.  

For example. at a nursing home there was a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient whose face someone’s dog licked when he held him up for her to see. The visitor told her the dog didn’t usually “kiss” people he didn’t know, and she immediately answered, “Dogs are very selective.” That was the first lucid remark she’d made for months. 

3.  Listening to or Performing Music 

After listening to music some are clearly more calm, in a better mood and more outgoing than before, which improves the quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver. Music has even been found to help those with dementia retrieve some memories their caregivers had assumed were lost forever. 

Often times late stage Alzheimer’s patients can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’ve lost the ability to recognize loved ones, dress themselves, or remember what happened five minutes earlier.  

4.  Observing or Creating Artwork                     

 If your loved one is able to go out, a trip to an art museum could also be very beneficial. Just looking at art, much like listening to music, has been shown to calm dementia patients. 

In the late stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients can often still create striking art work that allows them to express themselves and connect with their loved ones – even when they can no longer speak.  

You can arrange various types of art projects for your loved one. Common activities include painting with water colors, coloring with crayons, making scrapbooks or molding objects out of clay. 

Resources: 

There is an online store, Best Alzheimer’s Products, that features games for those with Alzheimer’s. http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/games-for-people-with-alzheimer’s.html.

For more specific ideas about how to use music to engage people who have dementia go to: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2011/11/music-and-alzheimers-disease-using.html.

 

Alzheimer’s and Music: How to Engage and Bring Comfort and Joy to Your Loved One – Part II

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Last week I wrote about how to engage your loved one with Alzheimer’s by listening to music. Today I’ll talk about how to actually engage them in performing music.

Sing-alongs: This is a favorite activity in nursing homes, and you can arrange family sing-alongs, enjoyable for everyone, for loved ones living at home.

Individual Patient Performances:  Patients can be given drums, tambourines or other simple percussion instruments to “play” while singing or listening to music. This can bring smiles to previously blank faces. You can also have patients who previously played instruments try to play them again. Those with mild dementia may be capable and would enjoy playing a little.

As I mentioned the last time, it’s best to use music that was popular when your loved one was young. Also, be sure to avoid music that is loud or dissonant, and don’t play music that’s sad or could remind your loved one of sad events in his or her life.

Experiment with the above approaches to see if any work. Following these simple guidelines may give you and your family new ways to connect, interact and bring joy and comfort to your loved one.

(Source of this story:  www.AlzheimersReadingRoom.com. By Marie Marley)

Alzheimer’s and Music: How to Engage and Bring Comfort and Joy to Your Loved One – Part I

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Music can be a significant source of entertainment that also has the power to reach people with dementia on a deep level. Many can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’re unable to recognize their loved ones, dress themselves, or remember what happened five minutes earlier. Music also has beneficial effects on patients’ health and social functioning, and has even been found to help dementia patients retrieve some memories thought to have been lost forever.

Today I’ll give some advice for having your loved one listen to music. Next week, in the second installment of this topic, I’ll write about some ways to get your loved one actually involved in music performances. 

Live music:  Patients with mild dementia can be taken to concerts or you can have a musician come to your home. If your loved one played an instrument, bring in a performer who plays that same instrument.  Or you can just sing to your loved one.

Recorded music: Listening to recorded music is somewhat less engaging because unlike live music, it doesn’t provide visual stimulation. It does have the advantage, however, of allowing the person to listen anytime. They can listen through earphones or speakers, with the latter allowing you and your loved one to share the experience.

Background music: Background music can bring comfort to Alzheimer’s patients. It should be played very softly, though, so as to not overstimulate a patient who may be doing something else at the same time.

A couple of final tips: It’s best to use music that was popular when your loved one was young. Also, be sure to avoid music that is loud or dissonant, and don’t play music that’s sad or could remind your loved one of sad events in his or her life.

(Source of this story: www.AlzheimersReadingRoom.com by Marie Marley.)