Tag Archives: music

An Insider’s Look at Connecting with Music

IMG_4301Encountering fascinating people is always a highlight of our travels. Our recent trip to New York City was dedicated to meeting innovative people in the field of creativity and dementia. I’d interviewed many of these experts for Connecting in the Land of Dementia via telephone or Skype and I was looking forward to learning from them in person.  These are the people who are changing the world and who inspire us to go out there and make our part of the world better.  In the next months, I’ll be sharing some of their wisdom with you.

IMG_4331Marlon Sobol grew up with music and understands its universal healing powers. We visited him at a care community in White Plains, NY, where he works as a full-time music therapist.  We watched in awe as Marlon worked his carefully orchestrated magic. He started with soothing tones from the marimba, moving into singing everyone’s name as a way of connecting with them. Then he played familiar songs to invite singing along. Finally, he added soundtracks of West African and Caribbean music, which inspired the staff and some of the residents to burst into dancing. In honor of our visit, Marlon played and sang, “Going to Kansas City,” which made us leap out of our chairs, sing along and dance.

Here is a tip from Marlon:

“Our names are so important. Music is a way to help people stay connected with their names. I often sing a name as a way of engaging. You can add a name to any simple tune and invite people living with dementia to sing along.”

Click on these shorts videos for other ways to incorporate music and movement into your everyday life.

The power of a name

The power of music and movement

Read more about Marlon’s programs in Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Order your copy from your favorite independent or online bookstore.

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Three Top Tips for Tuning into Singing: Insights from Finland

images-1Mom was staring into space, oblivious to my brilliant smiles and cheerful conversation. So I started to sing, just to occupy myself. I chose songs Mom liked, such as “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” “A Summer Place,” and “You are My Sunshine.” Normally, I felt a little down when I didn’t really get to connect with Mom during my visits. But after a half-hour of being a one-woman show, I felt uplifted and energized. And Mom seemed to be making a sound much like humming.

Singing was often a part of my time with Mom. I’ve always felt happy after “making a joyful noise.” Now a study from Dr. Teppo Sarkamo and his colleagues in Helsinki, Finland, explains why.

Dr. Sarkamo’s research found that “regular musical activities can have an important role in maintaining cognitive ability, enhancing mood and quality of life” for people living with mild to moderate dementia. These activities also promote the well being of care partners and offer a beneficial leisure activity for the person living with dementia and the care partner.

imgresInvite Out Your Inner “American Idol”

You don’t need special musical abilities to benefit from listening to music or singing. The research shows that incorporating simple musical activities in daily care is “a cost-efficient way for offering emotionally, cognitively stimulating, and enriching musical experiences.”

The study’s music therapist, Sari Laitinen, kindly offered these ideas for care partners and the person living with dementia.

  1. First, reserve enough time together to spend with the music. The main thing is feeling peaceful together. When singing, choose the songs together from a songbook. In our research project, we prepared a song booklet of our own for the participants, which mostly included well-known Finnish singe-a-long songs from their early years: childhood, teenage years and early adulthood. The care partner can begin by humming a melody first, and if their partner recognizes the song, they can start singing it together. Usually, the partner knows the lyrics “by heart” and their memory retrieval is quite automatic.
  1. Usually the songs bring about personal, autobiographical memories related to the life era and events when the songs were popular. Allow the reminiscence of your partner to proceed on its own time and terms, accepting the stories and not immediately correcting if the people or places happen to be incorrect. You want a mutual feeling of telling each other important things about life. It is all about acceptance and the understanding that something important is shared. The feeling of being understood helps to cope with life.
  1. Listening to music is based on the same principles as singing together: the care partner can suggest some records he/she thinks are meaningful and see what happens. When asking your partner to choose the record, it is good to have some LPs or CDs with a photo of the artist on the cover. Again, it is nice to have a quiet place for the listening and time to share the stories and the feelings that the music evokes. It is good to keep in mind that although the songs are familiar from a long time ago, the experience of music is always “here and now”. By experiencing the music together and by being sensitive to the ”reactions” (emotions, thoughts, memories) evoked by the music, the care partner can offer acceptance and validation of the experiences, the feeling of being understood. Given time, this can lead the discussion from the reminiscence of old times to themes that are important now, such as acceptance of the lived life, mourning of losses, joy in the moment, feeling of vitality, strengthening the feeling of life and so on.

For more information, visit: Singing is beneficial for memory and mood especially in early dementia

Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia, Teppo Sarkamo, Sari Laitinenb, Ava Numminenc, Merja Kurkib, Julene K. Johnson, 
and Pekka Rantanene
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Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. 

COMING SOON: Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together 

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Music Matters in the Land of Dementia

How can creating a personal playlist, listening to favorite tunes, singing simple melodies, and pretending to conduct a symphony improve your life? Come to this free workshop and find out.

Music Matters in the Land of Dementia (and Everywhere!) An Interactive Program for Family Friends, Professional Care Partners, Activity Professionals, Musicians, and More

CITLOD very smallIn this lively one-hour session, coming up on July 20, we will share ideas for using music to deepen connections with people who are living with dementia. Some of these ideas, gleaned from top innovators and researchers, are from my upcoming book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together. According to numerous studies, music improves the lives of those living with dementia by reducing the need for psychotropic drugs, increasing socialization, and relieving depression. The event is going to be joyful and fun and we’d love to experience it with you.

Here’s the workshop information:

Deepen your connections, increase communications, and ratchet up your fun quotient by adding music into your caregiving journey. Authors and dementia advocates Ron Zoglin and Deborah Shouse team up with guitarist Rod Fleeman and singer Cynthia Schroer for this hands-on session. They’ll share easy music-oriented ideas that can soothe anxieties and unlock creativity in people who are living with dementia, as well as splash notes of joy and renewal into the care partners’ lives.IMG_2236

We are partnering with Shalom University to present this free session on July 20th from 10:00 to 11:00 at Village Shalom, at corner of 123rd and Nall, 5500 W 123rd Street, OP 66209. To sign up for this musical experience, just call Bree at (913) 266-8469 or email  vsu@villageshalom.org as soon as possible.

Victor Hugo said it so beautifully: Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. 

Music Matters

LITLODDuring my mom’s dementia journey, music often inspired and connected us. Here is one of those melodic moments, excerpted from my book, Love in the land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. The story is set in my mom’s memory care community.

Rochelle, the activity director, sticks in another tape and soon Stardust is playing. 

“Let’s dance,” she says, motioning everyone to stand.

Mom looks up and I offer her my hand. 

“Want to dance?” I ask her.

“What?”

“Want to dance?” I repeat, making a swirling motion.

“What else,” she says, standing up.

My parents have danced to this song many times, my mother coaxing my father onto the dance floor. I hold hands with Mom and move back and forth to the music. She laughs and does the same. I twirl her, and she walks around in a jaunty little circle. For a moment, her energy and charm have returned. I feel like I have found my long-lost mother. If my father were here, he would not be surprised. He is certain she will return to him and takes every word, every gesture of affection, every smile as a sign of hope.

“Hope is everything,” Dad told me just last week. “I find something hopeful and I milk it for all it’s worth. If it doesn’t work out, then I search for something else. Otherwise, I am in despair.”

I twirl my mom again. It is actually our first real dance together…

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

 

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Strengthen your Heart, Open Your Ears, and Ignite your Spirit with Conductorcise

Maestro David Dworkin moves his baton and a Strauss waltz begins. But instead of facing a sea of symphonic musicians, the auditorium is filled with people also holding batons, following the Maestro’s movements. They are engaged in the Maestro’s globally renowned exercise program, Conductorcise.

Click here for an exhilarating example:                            Conductorcise

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As the music continues, two women begin to waltz in the aisle. Later, he learns that these women are living with dementia. “They haven’t moved in months,” a health care worker tells him.

At a memory care unit, he passes out batons, handing them even to people who seem slumped and unresponsive. He introduces John Phillip Sousa, offering a few tidbits about the composer. Then he starts a Sousa march and leads his group in vibrant upper body movements. Soon everyone, even three people who seemed oblivious, are conducting along with him.

Such is the power of movement and music.

 

Leading with Benefits

“The vibrations and energy of the music speak to people,” says Masetro Dworkin. “You benefit from relieving stress, building aerobic stamina, improving listening skills, and increasing social engagement while imagining yourself leading a symphony orchestra.”

As a bonus, you can learn a little about the lives and works of the great composers.

The program appeals to all ages and abilities and has spread around the world, from Holland to Canada to Singapore.

 

Conducting for Two or More

The program works wonderfully one-on-one.

“You can’t do anything wrong,” Maestro says. “You don’t even need a baton. You can use chopsticks, unsharpened pencils, a straw, or just your arms.”

Here are a few tips for enjoying Conductorcise:

  • To get started, you might say, “How about helping me conduct this tune?”
  • Select a familiar song your partner enjoys, one that might also inspire conversation and singing.
  • Move your arms and upper body to the music and encourage your partner to move as she wishes. Move your lower body as well, if appropriate.
  • For those who need extra support, add eye contact and gently stroke their arms.
  • Invite friends and family members to join you.

“Everyone wants to be a conductor!” Maestro Dworkin says.

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Visit http://www.conductorcise.com glean ideas from Maestro’s listening library and information about his training and certification programs.

Julliard-trained Maestro David Dworkin has led orchestras across the globe, and performed as clarinetist with ensembles internationally. He served as conductor and Artistic Consultant for three PBS Television documentaries in the series Grow Old With Me, and devoted much of his career to working with young people. In his 80’s, he has become a sought-after role model for all, demonstrating how exercise, music, joy and a positive outlook can create a healthy journey through life.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. 

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Creating a Real Hit: Building Community Through Drumming

Life is about rhythm. We vibrate; our hearts are pumping blood; we are a rhythm machine; that’s what we are.   – Mickey Hart

percussionSome might have thought it a hassle to be hauling such a large load of percussion instruments, but Renee Kessler didn’t mind. She was thinking of the sudden smile she’d see when her mother-in-law began rhythmically shaking the maracas. Or the joy she’d see in Mr. Norman’s eyes as he beat the drums. She was glad to see the circle of residents in the memory care unit waiting for her and relished offering them choices of bells, clappers, triangles, drums, tambourines, and rain sticks.

“Through our drumming circles, we give people choices, we inspire them and we wake them up. Their eyes brighten when we play music,” Renee says.

Renee has a long history of waking people up through engaging them in creative arts. She worked as a teacher for an esteemed arts school in West Palm Beach, Florida,  and now serves as a consultant, helping students prepare for arts programs. And she’s long been involved as a family care partner. When a drummer friend invited her to visit memory care units with him, she was eager to go; she’d been collecting instruments for years.

The experience was meaningful for all involved. Once they talked to each participant and distributed the instruments, the drummer set a beat and gradually everyone chimed in.

“We kept the flow of the energy and then we stopped and invited people to make random noise,” Renee says. “People were very expressive and eager to beat on drums, flap the clappers, and shake bells.”

Being part of rhythm and music energized and equalized everyone and built a sense of community, creativity, and connection.

drumsWant to create connection through percussion instruments?

  • Set the tone with a drumbeat or select a CD of familiar music with a definite beat.
  • Offer a choice of noisemakers. If needed, you can beat a pen on a book or put some beans in a jar to make an impromptu shaker.   Or you can hit two spoons together.
  • Encourage your loved one to make as much noise as possible. Do the same. There’s liberation in making noise and there’s a sense of connection sharing the same rhythm.

 Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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