This past week much of my online reading has focused on Alzheimer’s. Three articles immediately stand out in my reading.

  1. Maturity Matters – Relationships – Ten Tips for Communicating with an Alzheimer’s Patient.  This article highlights important concepts when communicating face to face or in group settings.
  2. Alzheimer’s Communication: Validation Versus Approval This article focused on the awareness caregivers and therapists need in responding to our clients.
  3. Make it Multi-sensory .  Rachelle shares about an impromptu mutli-sensory group and ideas for including other senses in music therapy sessions.

Then I had the question of my teenage daughter asked this last week: “Why do you  like working with people who have Alzheimer’s?” The answer lies within those articles and a few other items.

When I work with groups, there are often people at various stages of the disease process.  So, I have the challenging of providing opportunities for all to respond and to participate.  That means:

  • finding different ways to ask the same question;
  • being aware of how I am responding; responding to others the way I wold want to be treated;
  • having a general game plan or overarching idea while changing it, often in major ways, to the mood and response of the group; in other words staying focused on the moment;
  • providing a variety of sensory opportunities to increase the potential of response across the group;
  • the challenge of finding songs that resonate with the group members;
  • working with people who want to be loved for who they are now and who generally provide the same to me.

I could probably go on for a long time, but I’ll just summarize it by saying the challenge of meeting people where they are in the moment and going on a musical journey with them totally charges me. This group (along with preschoolers) seem to be where I feel most able to share a song and effect a positive change.

A lot of research is happening in the area of Alzheimer’s – its causes, ways to test, treatment. We know much more now than we did when I started working with this population over 25 years ago.  There is much more to learn.  But, the most important lessons come from those living with the diagnosis and their family.  One song that speaks to what I see as my roll is “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Are you listening to what those dealing with dementia are saying?

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