Recently, I “friended” GeriPal on Facebook. GeriPal is a blog devoted to geriatrics and palliative care. Back on my birthday, they reported a literature review from the December issue of the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias on the benefits of singing to people who live with dementia.
This extensive review showed that–drum roll, please–“singing to people who have dementia improves quality of life for both the people with dementia and their caregivers” (my emphasis).
The article showed the wide variety of ways in which this could be accomplished, from formal music therapy to spontaneous sessions. There were case studies about singing to people at the end of life, and a link to a video of Swedish elders uproariously singing old drinking songs.
Blogger Theresa Allison ended her post with the following suggestions:
– “Take a risk and actually sing while you’re at a nursing home, whether or not you think you have a good voice
– Do a little homework. Ask a family member what kind of music Mom or Dad (Aunt or Uncle) sang in the kitchen when they were little
– Remember, we have all known comfort through music, and therefore it should not be a surprise that anyone can use songs to create a moment of peace before dying, and a moment of connection despite dementia.”
I am developing a “Presence Project” with Marguerite Manteau-Rao and Dr. Nader Shabahangi, to bring the principles of mindfulness to our interactions with people living with dementia (follow our progress here). It is clear that the sharing of music needs to be part of the act of being with a person living with dementia. We did our annual Christmas caroling rounds this week, and saw this benefit over and over.
On a final “note”, I sent this blog around St. John’s, and my co-worker Jenny Rutherford reported that she sang to a woman at the home recently, using the old children’s parody: “Jingle bells, Santa smells, Rudolf ran away…” and she never heard the woman laugh as hard as she did that day! (Jen also suggested adding another word to our language of culture change–she recommended that if we are trying to create home, we should change the word from “visitors” to “company”. I like that!)
So Happy Holidays to all, and follow the bouncing ball: “Three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear trreeee…”