Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Music Mends Minds

   Amy appeared at my door one day to ask me to participate in a new group forming in our community.  She needed musicians to help with bringing music participation to individuals coping with dementia, Alzheimers disease, and Parkinson's disease. She explained how playing an instrument affects the brain. I was intrigued and agreed to come see how things worked. I might have said no, considering my busy schedule, but I wanted to check out the idea of creating a band of amateur musicians. The organization Music Mends Minds had a very interesting website.

I learned that when dealing with memory loss music reaches past memory to a deeper place

The sensory experience of music binds with memory in the brain and makes it more powerful. 

Here are some things expressed by those who are suffering from memory loss and their caregivers.

You need to be around people
Playing music together offers a sense of freedom
Having something to do that is valuable and important
Cognition improves when playing music with others
Playing music lowers depression
Playing music raises energy
Playing an instrument requires muscle memory in the brain and is not impacted by dementia
Music is like another language

   At first as I involved myself with this group I had to deal with my own sadness. I met with people who I had known before their decline into memory loss. It was hard for me to "look loss in the face". Really, the weeks of holding back was about my own unwillingness to see my mortality. At some point I felt the impression to look at how I could contribute better. I started observing more and pulling away less. I saw how some people waited, while others chatted and did business. The idea came to me to play music at the piano, right away. I also observed the impact of rhythm and suggested a play along with simple instruments. That provided more of the idea of being in a band. In our group, very few really played an instrument. Everyone liked playing along with something that made sound. We are young still and I am eager to see how we progress. I hope I can help create moments of rest and relaxation for anxious minds. These words by a caregiver resonated with me.

"What radiates on the faces of the band and the audience is a sense of this moment of contentment that has nothing to do with suffering and all about the rewards of taking the risk to show up. They've paid their dues and now have a free lifetime membership to the sanctuary of the heart." 


  1. Being the daughter whose mother has dementia, I took particular pleasure in reading this Gabriele. I've read that about music with dementia. It was a few years ago when I was visiting that I noticed what my sister had been telling me, mama would sit in long silences (not like her at all) except for the humming of 3 or notes she'd do. Not a song, just the same tones hummed over and over. She wasn't a singer and not even a real music fan except for her church music. Bless you for all you are giving to others!

  2. I remembered a post you wrote some time ago about your mother. Yes, even humming a few notes cam bring calm.

  3. I enjoyed hearing more about this, Gabriele. It sounds like such an interesting thing to be a part of and I'm sure it really helps the people who participate. Music can be very powerful . It's great that you're doing this.

  4. On Father's Day I had the opportunity to spend some time observing my Dad's reaction to the singer that was providing entertainment. As soon as the music began my Dad's entire countenance changed. He lit up, became more talkative, and was more engaged with his family. This only lasted about ten minutes, but I felt blessed to witness it. You are doing important work Gabriele!

  5. beautiful post. Since I've been on a writing binge lately, I wrote a post about playing piano that I plan to take out of the draft folder on my blog and set it to live very soon (likely next week). I've been so many programs and have listened to even more radio programs that deal with this very thing. I can see how much music goes deep into a person's soul and their memory. It's wonderful you are participating in this wonderful program!


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