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blt Help: With Alzheimers- do songs remain? (47) RE: Help: With Alzheimers- do songs remain? 15 Mar 01

Two years ago, I did a dance/movement therapy internship in a nursing home, working primarily with Alzheimers, dementia, stroke and disabled elderly patients. I will never, never forget the day I brought my guitar in.

The group was held in the dayroom, the interns (3 of us)and the group leader would sit on "wheelie chairs"--stools that we rolled around on--as the group carried on. This particular day, I brought my guitar, played a little as the group warmed up by batting balloons around, then decided to roll around the group with my guitar, giving it to each person to hold. It was as if I were giving folks the holy grail. Some would look at me in complete wonder, run a fingernail softly across the strings, and then gaze back at me with a look I'm not sure I can describe. One man, mute, felt the windings of the lower strings and showed more energy and emotion in his face than I had ever seen him display. Another woman touched the wood and looked at me, raised her arms and said, "Beautiful, beautiful," and laughed. A woman who had been very withdrawn sat up suddenly in her wheelchair and belted out a very stirring anthem in Norwegian.

After that experience of simply touching the instrument, I rolled to the middle of the circle and began to play Waltz Across Texas. We also sang as a group You Are My Sunshine and Make New Friends. When the waltz began, several people smiled and the other interns began to dance with them. The music was like a switch, appearing to suddenly stir memories in a very individual way. We used music constantly during the group, but taped music did not seem to have the same effect as live music. For one, the taped music was difficult for everyone to hear and sometimes the music reflected the tastes of a younger age group.

There are several web sites that address using creative arts therapies in general; type in "creative arts therapy" or "music therapy" into a search engine and you should come up with something useful. Also, there are publishers that focus on creative arts therapies, such as Stern's and Jessica Kingsley. also will provide a list of resources (you don't have to purchase anything, but it's a good way to compile a bibliography).


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