In The Mind’s Eye

I’ve spent between eight to nine hours per day hanging with my mom in her nursing home. I’ve only ate a few of the horrible meals there. I use the meal time to head to the nearest bar food and liquid refreshment. I’ve brought in food most days for the main meal at lunchtime (called dinner here in Indiana). Her favorites are Chop Suey, KFC, Indiana Cat Fish, Corn Beef and Cabbage and Whoppers.

The early evening meal, served after 5:30, is light…soup and sandwiches. The folks are shuffled off to bed around 8 pm so the light food quantities make good sense. Too bad there is no food quality, but the facility and the staff are the absolute best so one can’t have everything.

A few times a week, entertainment is provided in the dining room and there are always 25-30 walkers and wheelchair-bound sitting at rapt attention. Most of the entertainers are retired musicians and singers that want to give back to the community and they choose appropriate-aged songs for their audience.

Over the past 18 months I have spent at least 40-45 of those nine hours days in this facility. I know a majority of the patients and staff by name. The saddest thing is watching how fast the deterioration of the Alzheimer mind takes place. Wonderful conversations of six months ago are now just blank stares and physical stagnation.

My mother is one of the lucky ones without the dreaded disease.

Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death for everyone over 65. In the past decade the leading cause of death, heart disease, has decreased. Death from Alzheimer’s has increased 66%. Among the Top Ten causes of death, Alzheimer’s is the only one that doesn’t have a way to slow the progression, cure the disease or prevent it from happening.

wheelchair patient

And now we get to the Mind’s Eye.

Those readers familiar with my rants know my LOUD voice begging that everyone must make music a part of their children’s or grandchildren’s education. Music makes you smarter. It’s a proven fact. Your child’s grades will improve if they are studying a musical instrument…period.

We have a natural predisposition for music. Our heart is a drum twenty four hours a day. We tap our feet, nod our heads or sing along to “our” songs.

Well, so do Alzheimer’s patients. I watch them every day. They mouth the words to the songs of their past. They smile as the original emotions the song delivered to them way back when, once again delivers those hidden memories to their brain, their soul.

They become calm if they were agitated. There clumsy motor movements are coordinated.  Their moods shift positively.

There is no big secret why this is. These folks are being influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. Singing, tapping feet, nodding heads remains intact late into the disease’s progression, because there is no cognitive functioning needed to enjoy music.

Most “important” songs for each of us includes built-in emotional baggage…important events in our life. These are never forgotten. Most of these songs are between our ages of sixteen and twenty five.

It is my hope that everyone understands these things so we can give so much happiness to our friends and relatives with Alzheimer’s.

Just get their birthdate. Check out the years they were 16 to 25. Look at the top songs of those years. Play it for them. Watch them come alive and get to experience emotions that have been buried in their psyche for decades.

We need to do this in every nursing home in America.


About bakoheat

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3 Responses to In The Mind’s Eye

  1. heyannis says:

    Touching piece, Dan. It’s been true in my life that music from “my era” takes me back and makes me smile or dance or cry. Thank you. xoa

  2. I can’t imagine life without music. Your post is not the first time I have read about the wonderful impact of music on those with Alzheimer’s. It is lovely to think that, in the midst of their loneliness, there is still something that can reach the emotions hidden inside.

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