“You Are Here” – A Song From The Perspective of Someone with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

A while back, I shared a song with you written by Bakhus Saba, a caregiver who had just gone through the heart-wrenching experience of placing his mother in a care facility due to her worsening Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, Bakhus has another song to share. This one is written from the point of view of someone with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, with music by Karen Morand, and lyrics by Karen Morand, Dale Butler and Bakhus Saba. With their permission, I have shared the studio recording and the full lyrics below:

You Are Here

God knows what’s happening here
I’m all alone in my fear
“Early onset” is what I’ve been told
I’m too young to be old

All the memories I’ve known
Are fading into the unknown
The life I lived with the people I love
Are ghosts that haunt me now
And I need to know somehow…

You are here
You are near
Hold my hand
One thing remains through the year
You are here.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
The eyes of a stranger stare back at me
The look is familiar but something is wrong
Like an old forgotten song
Can you help me sing along?

You are here
You are near
Hold my hand
One thing remains through the year
You are here.

All that I know is this moment right now
You may be a stranger but love me somehow
In time you will get to know
Love’s hardest lesson is in letting go

One day you’ll pack up my things
I’ll leave you behind spreading my wings
Forgetting confusion, losing the pain
But I’ll remember your name
And I’ll love you just the same

You are here
You are near
Hold my hand
One thing remains through the year
You are here.Old woman looking in mirror

Bakhus shared with me that this song had a few sources of inspiration, including the novel Still Alice and the story of Jan Petersen, a former CBS foreign correspondent. He also said that the second verse came from his own experience of his mother not recognizing herself in the mirror.

Personally, my favorite line came in the second verse: “The look is familiar but something is wrong/Like an old forgotten song/Can you help me sing along?” I often get to help people sing along to songs they thought they had forgotten, and I know that music can bring back memories in other ways, too. I feel privileged to be together with people at those times.

I hope you find this song as achingly beautiful as I did. If you haven’t already, make sure you hear Bakhus’s song “Still A Child,” too.

Advertisements

Music Therapists Do It Differently: In-The-Moment Adaptations

In this series, we are exploring how music therapists do live music differently than other musicians, even though it may not be easy to see. This is part two of a ten-part series. You can find an introduction and links to all ten posts here.

(P.S. Are you loving this series? There’s more where that came from! Jump on our email list for specialized, exclusive content, just for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.)

#2. In-The-Moment Adaptations

No matter what kind of musical interaction a music therapist is facilitating, we always starts by considering the client’s needs and goals on a given day. Sometimes the session plan is highly structured and well-thought out in advance, but sometimes the plan has to change to meet the needs of the group or individual on that particular day. In fact, sometimes the plan has to be pretty flexible from the outset, ready for the adaptations that will surely be required. I have found this to be especially true in my hospice work.

Imagine this one-on-one scenario:

Joe is doing a one-on-one music therapy session with Gina, a 96-year-old hospice patient living in a nursing home, who has end stage cardiac disease and moderate dementia. You hear Joe sing “You Are My Sunshine” and “Singing in the Rain” while strumming his guitar, and you think Gina might have chimed in with a word or two. When you peek around the corner, you see Gina looking intently at Joe and smiling. When you walk back down the hall again, you hear Gina and Joe laughing at something. How nice for Gina to have this music man come to visit!

What’s going on?

From the outside, it may appear that Joe simply thought of a few songs off the top of his head to sing with Gina. It’s true – Joe may or may not have written down a formal plan for this session, spelling out which song to sing when.

Or, on the other hand, it may look like Joe has some kind of “set list” of songs that he performs for ladies of a certain age. It’s true – you’ll hear music therapists singing “You Are My Sunshine” a lot more frequently with folks in their 90s than people in their 60s.

The bigger picture, however, is that Joe was choosing music based on the client’s goals and needs on that particular day.

Music therapists are ready to adapt. 

As discussed in the last post, Joe isn’t playing “You Are My Sunshine” just because he really likes that song. Rather, he has some kind of goal or purpose in mind. He might be singing “You Are My Sunshine” in an early session with Gina to assess whether she will sing a familiar song. His purpose is assessment. Or, he might choose that song to support a conversation about the warm weather outside while they watch the birds at the feeder outside Gina’s window. The goal is reality orientation and helping Gina find joy in the moment.

But what if Joe arrived one day, planning to talk about the lovely weather, but Gina was curled up in bed, crying like Joe had never seen before?

Music therapists prioritize client goals over session plans.

"Gina's having a bad day. I wonder what that music man will do?"

“Gina’s having a bad day. I wonder what that music man will do?”

In this case, Joe ditches his plan to talk about the weather and focuses on what support Gina needs in the moment. Perhaps Gina has become tearful from remembering that her eldest son has died. Knowing that Gina used to sing “You Are My Sunshine” when her children were young, Joe might offer this song as support for her grieving. Rather than using this song as an assessment tool or a vehicle for a pleasant social interaction, Joe offers it as a validation for Gina’s emotions and as a way to honor her history as a mother and her love for her son. Either way, Joe does not force Gina into a cheery conversation. Today is not the day.

This flexibility is central to the effectiveness of a music therapist.

We make plans for our sessions. Really good plans, based on clients’ goals. This lays the groundwork for music therapy.

By themselves, though, these plans would be limiting. They’d only work for the person and the circumstances originally conceived, not what might be happening on a different kind of day.

That’s why music therapists can’t really provide a protocol for which songs to play on which day to help Margie stay calm. Music therapists’ ability to make sometimes subtle adjustments in our musical interactions makes all the difference in the effectiveness of music therapy.

Music therapists adjust and adapt the music in the moment, based on clients’ needs right then and there. That’s how we do it differently.

P.S. Like this article? There’s more where that came from! Jump on our email list for specialized, exclusive content, just for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

There Is No Magic Music For Alzheimer’s Disease – Part Three

This is the third of a three-part series. Click to read part one and part two.

Music is one of those things that can really make a difference for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. As a music therapist, I spend a lot of time in music with folks who have dementia, helping them to connect with their peers, with their loved ones, and with cherished memories; and providing a context for them to make music with others.

What I especially love, though, is when I can help caregivers discover those songs and experiences that really work for the person or people they care for. I say “discover” because I can’t really prescribe one song or one experience that will work like magic for everyone. No one can.

There is no magic music.

If the bad news of our recent series is that there is no magic music, the good news is that we really can use music within our caregiving relationships to make a significant difference in the lives of those we care for.

If there is “magic,” it is what happens in the relationships a person has with the music itself and with the caregivers engaging in music with them.

In fact, if you already have a good relationship with your care recipient, you probably already know some ways to bring music into your interactions. (Read more in part one.)

You can then take that a step further by thinking more about your caree’s relationship with the music itself. (Read more in part two.)

Then, you can become even more intentional about how you relate to each other in the music. (Read on!)

How you relate in the music matters.

What you do during the music, or how you experience the music together, definitely affects how well the music “works” for your loved one.

This makes intuitive sense. Think about it: imagine your favorite, most relaxing music. Imagine listening to those beautiful sounds while cuddled up in bed, with the lights dim and the rest of the house perfectly quiet.

Now imagine listening to that music in rush hour traffic, when you’re trying to negotiate five lanes of freeway traffic while running ten minutes late to yet another doctor’s appointment.

In which setting do you feel more relaxed?

I think you get my point. We can’t just turn on some music and expect the magic to happen.

Here are a few elements to consider for how you relate in the music:

Verbal interaction before, during, and after the music

Think about why you are introducing the music to the person you are caring for. Are you simply turning it on for background noise? Or do you want to encourage conversation and reminiscence? Are you trying to help your loved one transition to an activity, a meal, or bedtime? Or are you just trying to find some mental space for yourself to relax? Considering your purpose or desired outcome will help you to decide which music to play and how to talk about it.

Pairing other activities with music

Doing music together can be even more rewarding when you pair music with another activity. Here are some ideas:

  • Exercise – dust off those lists from the physical therapist, or use the exercises you know from aerobics classes
  • Expressive movement – stretch and dance, letting the music be your guide
  • Art-making – break out the paint, markers, or colored pencils and see what happens
  • Art-viewing – look at photographs and let the music and art work together to start a conversation
  • Personal care – pair music with those ADL tasks you have to tackle (showering, washing hair, dressing), then finish with lotion and a hand massage
  • Instrument playing – give each person a tambourine or drum, and add your own beat to the recorded music

Structuring the listening environment

Even if you just want to turn on some music for passive listening, you still need to consider the listening environment. First, consider the ambient noise level. As in the example above, if the environment is noisy, busy, or otherwise stressful, then no music will work for relaxation. Are there competing radios or TVs? Lots of people talking? Sounds of vacuums and floor polishers?

Also consider how playback is happening. Is your care recipient listening through headphones? Or is the music playing loud enough for an entire room of people to hear?

Taking a few moments to consider the listening environment will make your music experience together more enjoyable and more effective.

Even if there is no magical CD you can buy to get those cherished musical moments for your care recipients, music can make a HUGE difference, especially with a little extra thought and planning.

What things have you done together in music with your care recipient? What has worked best for you? Please leave your comments below!

There Is No Magic Music For Alzheimer’s Disease – Part Two

Photo by moodboardphotography via Flick.com

Photo by moodboardphotography via Flick.com

This is the second of a three-part series. Click to read part one and part three.

The fact that music can profoundly affect people with dementia is not news, but finding exactly what music “works” for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias can be a challenge. What is important to know is that there is no “magic music” for Alzheimer’s Disease – no one-size-fits-all recording or musical experience that can do what almost looks like a magic for someone with dementia.

In the first post in this series, you read that relationship matters in music therapy and any use of music in caregiving. Next time, we’ll look at the relationship between the caregiver and care recipient in a musical experiences, but for now, let’s look at the relationship the listener has with the music itself.

Their Relationship With The Music Matters

Basically, what I mean by this statement is that it matters whether your care recipient has heard a particular song or type of music before, whether they like it, and what memories it brings back.

Music Preference

In the music therapy world, we often talk about music preference – whether someone likes opera or rap, Frank Sinatra or Taylor Swift. Music preference certainly matters. We know, for example, that it is difficult to relax to music you don’t like. If you hate the sound of the soprano saxophone, then Kenny G is not easy listening for you.

Musical Associations

There is more to your relationship with music than liking or disliking a particular song, though. In addition, it matters what associations someone might have with a particular kind of music. For example, your mother may love to hear “Rock of Ages” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” but for her tablemate in the dining room, those songs might bring back painful memories of parents who died when she was a child. Or, your loved one might love country western music but hate Hank Williams, because he was an alcoholic and a druggie. It doesn’t matter that Hank Williams is a country music icon if his music brings up reminds them of an alcoholic relative or personal struggles with addiction.

Familiarity

Another aspect of a person’s relationship with music that can be important is the person’s familiarity with a particular musical selection. I often recommend looking for familiar music to share with your loved ones with dementia, because familiar music can help people connect to good memories. That’s what we see at work in the viral video of Henry.

Still, believe it or not, familiarity is not always a requirement, and it is not always sufficient to bring about those amazing moments we’re all looking for. That’s because it also matters how you spend your time in music with your loved one.

We’ll dig deeper into that aspect in the next post, but for now, what have you observed about how a person’s relationship with music affects what “works” for them? Please leave your comments below!

There Is No Magic Music For Alzheimer’s Disease

Senior Lady Listens to MusicAs the word gets around that music can make a huge difference for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, I keep hearing more and more people want to know how to use music effectively – therapeutically, even – with their loved ones who have dementia. In addition, there are more and more companies every day selling CDs and mp3s and apps designed especially for people with dementia. How do you even know where to start?

Knowing that there is a lot of confusing information out there, way more than any caregiver could expect to take in, let me boil it all down to one point:

There is no magic music.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about finding that single CD, DVD, playlist, or program that will definitely “work” for your loved one. What’s more, the music you already own may be all that you need for using recorded music for various purposes.

Something that has emerged from many years of music therapy research and practice is that relationship matters a lot in music therapy and caregiving through music. When you are bringing music into the caregiving relationship for a person with dementia, you need to pay special attention to two relationship factors:

  • The listener’s relationship with the music
  • How you relate to your care recipient during the music

We’ll look at those two factors in the next two posts in this series, so you can learn a few more ways to make music a valuable part of your caregiving routine.

Yes, there are some tips and tricks to learn, but before we get to those, I want you to know this:

Step 1: Trust your intuition.

You already have a relationship with your care recipient, and you know your loved ones better than anyone else. So, if you find something that “works” – helps to establish a routine, or calm someone down, or encourage exercise – then by all means, keep doing it! As a music therapist for people with dementia, I spend a significant chunk of time talking with family caregivers about the music and musical experiences that hold meaning for the person I’m seeing as a client.

You already know this stuff.

What I can help you do is take this knowledge to the next level, using what you already know in a more intentional way. (We can also problem-solve those situations when it seems like *nothing* works.)

So, we’ll dig deeper in the next two posts, but until then, all you have to do is share the music that already is important and meaningful with your loved one.

What music have you already found that “works” for your loved one with dementia? Please share your discoveries below!

UPDATE: This is the first of a three-part series. Click to read part two and part three.

Song Spotlight: “April Showers”

April showers...

April showers…

  • Mood: Hopeful
  • Themes: Rain, flowers, happiness
  • Tempo: Moderately slow
  • Genre/Style: 1920s popular song

As I write this, it’s yet another rainy day at the end of April. After last summer’s drought, I am glad for the rain, but I am also very ready for springtime to be here in full force. So, the song “April Showers” has been on my mind.

With music by Louis Silvers and lyrics by B.G. De Sylva, “April Showers” was first made famous by Al Jolson and has been recorded by many people since then. Here are the lyrics for the chorus:

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it’s raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn’t raining rain you know, it’s raining violets.
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see the crowds of daffodils;
So keep on looking for a blue bird and list’ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

I love this song for its rich imagery and its accessibility on both concrete and abstract levels.

First, the concrete. This song mentions violets, daffodils, and even the quintessential bluebird of happiness. Even the cliched phrase, “April showers bring May flowers” provides an entree to conversation with folks with various stages of cognitive impairment. This is one of many songs I introduce in music therapy sessions to encourage participants to talk about gardening or signs of spring. It’s also helpful for directing people’s attention to the current weather conditions, not to mention the date on the calendar.

...bring May flowers

…bring May flowers

But I love the abstract level of this song, too. The overriding message of this song is that even though times may be tough now, there will be better times to come. In other words, life has its seasons, too, some which are lovelier than others. Personally, I think this is a more realistic offer of hope than the message that you should just keep smiling, even if you’re feeling bad. Here, we acknowledge the April showers of life – the clouds, the storms, the grayness – while holding out hope for and expectation of spring – the beauty, the new life, the colors and birdsong. Sometimes, focusing on the fact that dealing with challenges can bring us even greater strength may be what we need to get through a particularly difficult time.

What do you think? Do you like the “April Showers” analogy to changing life circumstances? What else do you see in this song? Please leave your comments below!

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.

Alzheimer’s and “Blowin’ in the Wind”

20130410-181315.jpg

Sandy Halperin, DDS

Today’s post comes from Alexander Sandy Halperin. Sandy is a husband, a father of two, and a prosthodontist by training. Sandy also has Alzheimer’s Disease. After a lifetime of public service and education, Sandy has now turned his energies towards advocating for on behalf of those with Alzheimer’s Disease, as a member of the National Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Advisory Group. (You can see even more of Sandy’s impressive background on LinkedIn.)

Sandy recently wrote a short post about Alzheimer’s advocacy, connecting it to the song “Blowin’ In The Wind.” He has given me permission to reprint it here.

Alzheimer’s and “Blowing in the Wind”

In thinking this morning about my having early-stage Alzheimer’s, the first song that comes to mind is “Blowing in the Wind” written by Bob Dylan and sung by him; Peter, Paul and Mary, and a bunch of others.

The National Alzheimer’s Association is holding its annual Advocacy Forum in Washington, DC on April 20-24th and I will be attending that meeting along with my daughter Karen and wife Gail. During that time, there will be many meeting and get-togethers of advocates, including my being able to meet with members of Congress and the Senate to express my personal feelings about awareness, the stigma/embarrassment that hugely surrounds having those that have the disease, and what I believe is needed — the nation’s leaders to declare a “War on Alzheimer’s” by substantially increasing the funding for what is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. One in three people who die in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s at the time of their passing.

As I sit with each member of Congress and the Senate in several weeks, I will probably ask them to get the true feeling what it would be like to sit in my chair versus theirs; with their having a cognitive problem (Alzheimer’s), or the fact that one of their family members or friends may have or get the horrible disease. Having them put my shoes on their feet may help them better understand what it is like having the early-stages of the disease, and for me not knowing what the future holds with regards to my cognitive health is tough — and that is along with millions and millions of others (patients and caregivers) that are coping with the disease. This is not about me and it is not the time for any member of Congress or the Senate to “turn their heads”.

So, I ask, is it the time for any member of Congress or the Senate to turn their head and look the other way, not paying attention to the dramatically growing numbers of individuals in the US that are diagnosed or will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – with a new diagnosis of somebody having Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds, whew! I do not intend on making this a political issue with any legislator, it is a serious health issue that faces our nation.

The time to act is right now – and to put as much muscle and dollars into the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) and for additional curative research. Yes, there will be lots of meetings about the subject, but at the same time it is urgent to put initiatives and efforts into affect without unnecessary delays. The devastating statistics continue to pour in regarding Alzheimer’s and there is no time to delay tangible and caring actions.

Here are some of the lyrics to “Blowing in the Wind”:

“…Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?

Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind…”

I want to express my appreciation to my family for assisting me in my writing…

…and I want to thank you for sharing your voice here, Sandy. We wish you the best of luck at the upcoming advocacy forum!

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Last week, I had the honor of speaking about music for self-care at a Breakfast Club sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America chapter. This group of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease gathers monthly at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, to share a meal and provide support for each other in their caregiving journeys. Just from my one visit, it seemed like a very supportive community, where people could share their hardships and joys freely with others who understood. If you are in the Kansas City area, you can find more information here.I was there to share information about using music in caregiving, and especially about using music for self-care. We talked about choosing music for emotional and physical relaxation, exercising to music as a form of self-expression and stress relief, and how to practice techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation with music. After sharing all of this “how-to” information and including a couple of lovely experiences of music-assisted relaxation, though, I really think I left out a hugely important point:

Self-care isn’t selfish.Do you ever feel like this guy?

If you are a caregiver, you understand that two things are pretty certain to be part of the caregiving experience:

  1. Stress.
  2. Lack of time.

Constant worry about your care recipient, sleepless nights, changing behaviors and shifting moods, lack of support from family and friends, scarce time to yourself – all of these and more can be part of life as a caregiver. All of these stressors build up over months and years of caregiving, to the point where your own physical and mental health can start to suffer. Self-care must become part of the plan.

Maybe you object to this notion of self-care. “Oh sure,” you might say, “this is stressful, but stress is just a part of life. I can handle it.” Or maybe it’s, “no one else understands how Mom likes her dinner (or her bath, or her clothes, etc.) I have to be the one to do it.” Or maybe, “we’ve been married 60 years. How can I leave him now?”

The thing is, eventually, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not only not be able to care for your loved one, but you may end up needing a lot of help yourself. It may feel selfish in the short-term to go out for dinner or take a nap while someone else watches over your loved one for a while. It may even feel selfish to take 10 minutes listening to music and breathing when there is laundry to be done and appointments to be scheduled. This isn’t true.

If you are putting in a lot of time and energy into caring for a family member or friend, then you are a caregiver. You need to take care of yourself, too. You cannot carry the weight of the world on your shoulders indefinitely.

Make the time for self-care, so that you and your loved one can stay healthier and happier for as long as possible.

What are your best ways to care for yourself if you only have 10 minutes? What if you had an hour? A day? Please leave your comments below.

A Creative Christmas Songwriting Experience

We needed dental floss to make our tree presentable. Creativity counts!

‘Tis the season to decorate for Christmas! My family and I will be trekking out to a tree farm this Saturday to find our Christmas tree, and we’ll be making ornaments and decorating the tree this weekend. We’ve already got lights up on the house (which my little girl cannot stop talking about!)

I am pretty excited about Christmas this year, and I am grateful for the time I’ll have to spend with my family. The holidays can be quite stressful, though, especially  when you’re missing loved ones, or when you’re trying to find meaningful things to do as a family when you can’t quite match the ideals portrayed by Hallmark. Sometimes it takes some creativity and spontaneity to get through a season that has too much pressure to be perfect.

So, in the midst of holiday preparations, why not stretch your creative muscles with a songwriting exercise? This is something you can do on your own or with the whole family – kids and grandkids included – and it can work well with your loved ones who have dementia or other cognitive challenges.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Start with “Deck the Hall.” You know that song, right? With the fa-la-la-la-las? Sing it through a time or two to remember the tune.
  2. Write a new verse about the decorating and Christmas preparations you are doing. Don’t worry about being a lyrical genius – we’re going for a personalized version here, not a top 40 hit. There is no pressure to be picture-perfect here, just an aim to try something new.

Here’s what a new verse could look like:

Decorate the house with lights and wreaths
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Put the Christmas tree up and hang the ornaments
Fa la la la la la la la la!
String some popcorn and put it on the tree
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Don’t forget the star on top
Fa la la la la la la la la!

(Underlined words are newly composed.)

That’s it! You could make up as many new verses as you like. If you want, write them down for posterity, or make a video to share with family and friends on YouTube. And don’t underestimate how precious the sound of your own voice is. This could be a special gift for your loved ones for years to come.

You could try a similar song re-write with many other Christmas songs. “O Christmas Tree” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” have worked well for me and my clients.

Okay, now that you’ve done some creative exercise, maybe it’s time for a Christmas cookie?

P.S. If you do write a new verse to this song and want to share with the world, I’d love to hear how it goes! Please post in the comments section below.

Top Ten Ways To Use Music in Caregiving

Music is a universal human experience that helps to draw people together across generations, despite differences or disabilities. In my experience as a music therapist, I have helped many caregivers learn ways to use music to enhance the caregiving relationship. Here are my top ten tips:

 1.     Listen together to your loved one’s music collection.

Break out the records and CDs for the opportunity to be together in a musical experience, and it helps you to learn more about your loved one’s musical experiences.

2.     Use songs to spark conversations.

Do you want to hear your mom’s wedding story? Play some wedding songs from her era while looking through the family photo album. Want to talk about your upcoming trip to Hawaii? Play some Don Ho and Elvis to support your conversation. (Tip: I have lots of discussion-worthy songs in my song spotlight section!)

3.     Create playlists for different times of day.

Music can go a long way in setting the mood for various activities. You might want to play different music in the morning than at bedtime, for example.

4.     Use music to support exercise.

Here’s a fun fact: Background music can lower a person’s perception of the effort they are expending in exercise by about ten percent. That means playing some upbeat music can help your loved one get through all of those exercises needed to maintain physical functioning.

5.     Choose relaxation music wisely.

Because of a process known as entrainment, your body’s rhythms will tend to match the music you’re hearing. So, listen to music that is slow and steady, and you’ll feel your breathing slow and your body relax.

6.     Try playing with the band.

For a bit of a musical adventure, try playing a tambourine or drum along with one of your loved one’s favorite recordings. Just find a beat you can repeat and add your sounds to the mix.

7.     Make up new words to familiar tunes.

Music therapists call these “piggyback songs,” and they can be a great outlet for creativity. For example, change the words of “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” to add verses about a granddaughter coming to visit (“She’ll be comin’ from Missouri when she comes”) and what you’ll do once she gets there (“We’ll all go watch a movie when she comes”). (Check out how I used this very song for a great Thanksgiving intervention.)

8.     Use music to help with bathing and dressing.

Piggyback songs are especially useful for communicating information to people with dementia. Sing about getting ready for a bath, and the whole process will seem less scary.

9.     Let music lead to loving touch.

Sing “Cuddle Up a Little Closer” or “Shall We Dance,” and it’s impossible not to hold hands and share a hug. All of us need loving touch, but it can feel awkward in some relationships. Music can help make it more comfortable.

10. Use music for self-care, too.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too! Musical experiences can help you deal with the stress of caregiving as well.

Have you tried any of these methods lately? How have they worked for you and your care recipients?