Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dementia, Caregiving and Music

If you're a family caregiver do you wish you and your ailing spouse, parent, or relative could do something fun together outside your “roles”?  A group of people in New York City feel the same way.  Half the group has early to mid stage dementia, the other half are their family caregivers. So, they are belting out tunes side by side as part of a New York City first-ever chorus known as The Unforgettables. The chorale conductor is a music therapist and musician.

It seems to be more than just a feel-good get together. The founder of the group monitored the group before they started rehearsing (two hours a week), midway through, and after the group’s first concert last September.

The results after 13 rehearsals and the concert? Better quality of life, self-esteem and mood, including less depression, for both groups, and a way to forgot about being the caregiver and just be husband/wife and parent/child again.   There’s thought that music can activate parts of the brain not impacted by dementia until the late stage of the disease.

The isolation a caregiver for someone with dementia feels can be profound. Here, caregivers socialize during the break and find support in one another. No one has dropped out of the group. In fact, when one of the care recipients died, her daughter asked to remain part of the group.  Participants and spectators are singing the program’s praises, and there’s interest from other parts of the country.

But, you don’t have to be in a chorus or have Alzheimer’s to enjoy time with your loved one. How about sharing something you both like to do? Cook, garden, paint or take yoga together  to change the emphasis from being the caregiver of a sick person to the two of you being together.

Don’t forget what the Unforgettables teach us: “They are not just ill people, they are people.”

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