Music Therapy for People with Alzheimer’s Disease

By Brian Fejer, Customer Service Representative at Hartman Publishing

Last summer CBS News broadcast a story about using music to help people who have Alzheimer’s disease.  “Each week, the DJ spins oldies but goodies at the Todt Hill Senior Center on Staten Island. Also taking a spin is 74-year-old Carol Daly, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 12 years ago.” The Daly family was introduced to the Music and Memory program, which was created by social worker Dan Cohen. The online playlist is created by friends and family of the person who has Alzheimer’s disease. “Since the music we love is really tied to our emotional system, and our emotional system is still very much intact, that’s what we’re connecting and that’s what still works,” Cohen said.

On a personal note, my late grandmother, Mary Emma Chavez, had Alzheimer’s disease and she died last year. For almost a decade, she experienced difficult symptoms. With every passing year her lucidity faded and our names and faces were forgotten. Yet until the end, she could always recall certain music and lyrics from her youth. One of her very favorite songs was ‘Michelle (Ma Belle)’ from the Beatles.

Music long remained a way to reach my grandmother. To give my aunt, who was her primary caregiver, a break, once a week my grandmother would go to the Barelas Senior Center in downtown Albuquerque. They would often have a live band playing, which she really enjoyed. For her birthday celebrations, we’d have a guitarist and vocalist come to her house to sing classic Spanish songs like ‘Aquellos Ojos Verdes.’ My grandmother not only loved listening to music, she loved to dance. One year after much singing and dancing, it was incredible to see her, then in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, stand up and thank everyone for coming to her party!



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