Music is an entryway to the soul.
Several people have sent me links about the effects of music with dementia patients. Music has been used as a form of therapy for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. I even read a story about one man, who had Alzheimer's and had not spoken in four years, who attempted to speak again after a month of music therapy. While much of how the brain and body processes music remains a mystery, this much we know: there is a strong connection between the brain's auditory cortex and it's limbic system, which is where all emotions are processed. Music has been known to relieve agitation, reduce stress, decrease problem behaviors and so on.
Mom used to love listening to her music; even in her stages of dementia. I've noticed that lately, however, mom's radio has been very quiet. While I was over at mom's a few weeks ago, I decided to see if I could rekindle mom's love for music. As she sat on her bed, waiting for the clock to change to 12:00, I dusted off the CD player by her bedside and put in her favorite CD- a Mormon Tabernacle Greatest Hits CD.
"Mom, do you remember this music?" I asked. Mom gaze did not break from the clock.
"Born Free!" I sang in my operatic voice, trying to spark some memory with mom. She shifted slightly on the edge of her bed but continued to stare at her clock, ignoring my serenade.
I changed the song to another familiar song.
"Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day..." I sang, again in my exaggerated opera voice. Mom used to wake me up with her own operatic version of this song long ago, when I was a child. Oh how it annoyed me then, in those early hours of the morning! And oh, how I'd do anything to hear her sing it just once more!
I put my arms around mom and sang very theatrically, trying desperately for a response. Mom finally looked at me from the corner of her eye.
"It's 11:55 too, just a few more minutes and it's lunch time," she said, in her slurred speech.
"Mom, do you remember this song?" I said, redirecting the conversation.
After asking for a few more times, mom finally looked at her CD player suspiciously and said,
"I used to use that too and put on my good music too from that place far far away."
"Yes mom, you mean the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This is them. This is your favorite CD. You used to listen to it all the time," I answered.
After a couple more times of repeating that explanation, mom finally responded,
"No this isn't right, I don't know this."
To be honest I wasn't really expecting that she would remember. But coming face to face with reality is always a little tough. After my silly serenades failed to spark any memory with mom, I just sat beside her and put my around her, choking back the tears. I told her that I loved her and that I missed her. Mom continued to stare at the clock and 11:58 she broke free from my embrace and stood in front of the clock. She waved her hand, mumbling,
"11:58, good, almost time to eat lunch when it changes to 11:59."
No sooner than the digital clock read 11:59, mom sprinted out of her bedroom and down the hallway, towards the kitchen to make her sandwich.
Dementia is such a confusing disease. Sometimes I feel as if we are stuck in limbo. Mom is still living, yet she's not really living. Each time I try to spark her memory or make a connection with her, I know my efforts are in vain, yet I can't help trying.