This is a snip from a longer video that I created to view with mama.

Music and old photos can be a powerful tool, as music engages the mind and invites moments of clarity for people with Alzheimer's or any form of dementia.

It's a fairly easy fun and creative process.  The first step is to select what I call "trigger songs."   A trigger song is any song that has sentimental and/or special meaning to your loved one.

Using mama as an example:  Mama had a beautiful voice and loved to sing.  "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" became her signature song because she would always sing this song to daddy at family gatherings and social events.  So this was the perfect "trigger song" to use for mama.  

Mama and daddy loved to dance and mama was also a talented seamstress.  So I also included photos of mama and daddy dancing, and photos of mama wearing some of the dresses she created on the video.  The longer version of the video above also included other family photos and photos of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

The first time I played the video for mama I asked her if she knew any of the people in the video while pointing to her and daddy.  She replied with, "No, but they are beautiful." After watching the video twice I asked the same question and she pointed and said, "That's daddy" and also said "I love that man."   

"The Gift of music isn't necessarily about what music does for us...It's about what music undoes for us ~ Joan Boryseenko

Music is a powerful tool, as it can calm, comfort, engage, energize and/or excite us.  The next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, use the power of music to help you release stress and restore peace and balance to your body mind and spirit.  Simply select a piece of music that you enjoy or feels soothing.  One of my favorites is "Let It Be" by Paul McCartney, or the Aretha Franklin recording.  The song "Let It Be" reminds me to "let go" and trust that everything will be alright ("let go and let God).  "Let It Be" is also my pick as an anthem for all caregivers or anyone that finds it hard to say "no."  

If you are a caregiver of someone with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer's, all forms of Dementia, Parkinson's etc., music can be used to calm, engage, energize, shift their mood, and help with transferring from bed/chair to the shower. Just remember to the select the music that they enjoy!  Whenever mama needed a boost of energy I would play the song, "In The Mood" for her.  One of my many favorite music memories with mama was her reaction to this song.  She would make a fist with both hands and say "Oh, I just LOVE this music." She had the same reaction with any Louis Prima music too.    

When selecting the music for your loved one, ALWAYS select the kind of music that they like (trigger songs).  Such as:  songs from their childhood or teen years, and/or songs that have sentimental or special meaning (i.e. a song their mother would sing, a song they would sing to their children/grandchildren, ethnic heritage music, "their song"with the love of their life, church songs, hymns, gospel, etc.), show tunes (if they loved the theater), classics, classical, country (if they loved country music) and so on.  If you do not know what they like, experiment with the top hits from their generation and beyond (i.e the 40's, 50's, 60's,  70's, etc), and all of the above.  

You can also create a DVD/slide show using their "trigger songs" along with old photos.  Or, make a regular photo album that you can be viewed together while listening to "their" music.  Do remember to pause in order to allow them time to express and share the story in the photo.  Sometimes you'll need to play their "trigger music" a couple of times through before you get a response from them.  Be patient, and if they are not responding with words during the second viewing you can tell the story for them.  Avoid words like "remember" or phrases like "do you remember."  Instead, use phrases such as:  "Wow, you look so beautiful here.  I love that dress you made,"  Grandma looks so young in this photo" or " You and daddy were very talented dancers."   

Using their trigger music along with viewing old photos with your loved one may also gift you and them with some surprise moments of clarity, new stories and/or new insights.  Selecting the right "trigger song" is crucial so be creative, experiment and have fun!

Music for Dementia

The power of music and old photos for Alzheimer's disease and Dementia