As a memory care specialist at Sagora Senior Living, I have witnessed firsthand the power of music and memories in residents with Alzheimer’s. Songs truly tap into people’s minds like nothing I have ever experienced before.
I have so many great stories from our Sagora communities … but I’d like to share a few of my fondest ones with music and memories.
While at Heritage Place Memory Care in Burleson, I met a resident who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was in the later stages of the disease. He was non-verbal: I would ask him a question and I wouldn’t get a response.
When we learned that he enjoyed music, his family brought in headphones and his favorite CDs. Our Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) make sure he has his music every day. Every time I visited, he was a little more alert. He would move his head if I asked him a question, and make eye contact for longer periods of time.
The last time I had the privilege of visiting Heritage Place was a moment I will never forget.
I approached him that day – he was sitting with a group of residents, watching them play a game. I sat with him, took the headphones off and asked him how he was doing today.
He looked me in the eye and said, “I’m good.” I had to hold back the tears. I gave him a hug and said, “I’m so glad to hear that.”
A Sweet Voice.
Another great experience was from a resident who had lost his wife a few years back. As his disease progressed he became aggressive, non-verbal and unable to walk. I became very close to this resident. I would see him frequently, and take him on golf cart rides to the outdoor courtyard. I knew he had grown up on a farm and made a career as a contractor. I could tell he enjoyed feeling the sun on his face. He smiled.
On our second trip outside I decided I would sing for my new friend.
I sang the first song that came to my head, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. As I sang his eyes opened and lit up. He grabbed my hand and moved his head to the sound of my voice. As I ended the song he lifted my hand to his face and gave it a kiss. He then said, “my wife has a beautiful voice.” I smiled and said, “thank you.”
This became a routine for us. Every time we went outside I would sing to him and he would talk about his wife. When I discussed this with his daughters, they said that their mother sang all the time.
Music was allowing him to revisit the memory of his wife.
Sing With Me.
This last story is about a not-so-typical memory care resident at Waterview in Granbury.
This resident had a stroke, and afterward, she has only been able to say one word over and over. She speaks in sentences, but every word is the same. While I visited, I remembered reading a study about music therapy with stroke patients. I am not a music therapist, but I can sing to someone.
I took the resident to a soft part of the hall. Knowing that some of our most ingrained memories are from our childhood, I decided to pick a song that most of us are familiar with, “Jesus Loves Me.” As I started to sing and make eye contact with her, the most amazing thing happened.
She started singing with me.
She sang every single word correctly. This woman heard herself singing words she had been unable to say for months. The smile on her face was priceless.
Music is a powerful tool for communication to individuals of all cognitive levels, especially those with dementia. I feel honored to get to know the residents that we serve, and spend time with our associates that make a difference in our residents’ lives every day. I am proud to see the love and attention that is shared with all of our memory care residents, and to truly experience the power of music and memories.
– Christal Hoffman
Regional Lifestyles and Pathways Specialist