Last night I was flipping through the Netflex channels and stumbled on a documentary that was produced a couple of years ago “Alive Inside, Music and Memory”. The show was well done and featured a couple of Doctors that I have a lot of respect for: William H. Thomas MD, Harvard graduate and spokesman for Eldercare in upstate New York; Oliver Sacks, nuerologist: and Dan Cohen MSW, founding Executive Director of Music & Memory.
These professionals shared an underlying consensus that music has power—especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. And it can spark compelling outcomes even in the very late stages of the disease. They stress that the problem with most nursing homes is that they seem more interested in pushing drugs than coming up with more creative and non-tradition therapies.
Bob Dylan’s song “When you gonna wakeup” immediately came to my mind as I was watching the documentary: “ You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs that’ll never cure your ills”.
It should be noted that the narrators were quick to point out that the staff in most of the nursing homes were some of the most caring people in the world. The culprits seem to be to be at the top at the administrative level.
Most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions. The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it. Selections from the individual’s young adult years—ages 18 to 25—are most likely to have the strongest responses and the most potential for engagement.
As individuals progress into late-stage dementia, music from their earlier life seem to work best. Singing these songs in the language in which they were learned sparks the greatest involvement. They seem to retain their ability to move with the beat until very late in the disease process.
Kim, Campbell’s wife of 34 years, reveals in her latest public update that her husband, Glen, is in Stage 7 of the disease and is no longer able to verbally communicate or play the guitar, but still loves to listen to his old music.