Have you watched Alive Inside yet? It’s a wonderful documentary (available on Netflix) about aging in America, dementia/Alzheimer’s, and how music can help people connect and continue to live meaningful, engaged lives. Alive Inside is full of amazing stories of people who were thought to be beyond human connection and how music helped them reconnect to their caregivers, loved ones, themselves, their memories, and our shared reality. In response to this documentary, organizations across the country have been moved to bring personal music into nursing home facilities, including the Perry Foundation in Nevada with their Music and Memory program.
What I appreciate about this movie is that it clearly demonstrates how uniquely powerful music is, and how important one’s own music is. What do I mean by our own music? We all have songs that were important to us during different points in our lives. For example, the songs from our high school prom remind us what it felt like to be 18 years old. Or how about the songs we sang around the campfire with our families or favorite carols? These songs are part of how we know ourselves and each other. Our own music is so deeply embedded in all of us that people with dementia/Alzheimer’s know many of their favorite songs word for word, even when they struggle to remember their own names.
Music therapy is based on the same principles that are featured in Alive Inside; namely that music, used in the right way, is a bridge to connection and lucidity, even when no other ways seem to work. Music therapy is an active and interactive use of music where the participant and therapist are engaged in music together. With a music therapist’s ability to adjust to meet the client, music therapy can be even more socially engaging and interactive.
Note-Able Music Therapy works with people with cognitive decline every week, primarily at Senior Bridges at Northern Nevada Medical Center. We see, along with their caregivers, how music therapy lights up the room, restores people’s awareness, and revitalizes their eyes, bodies, voices, and memories. Indeed, people are alive inside, even if it’s hard to see at first glance. Music can be that bridge.
You’re welcome to explore our website for more information, follow us on Facebook to see what we’re posting this month about music and dementia/Alzheimer’s patients, or just reach out. We’re happy to help answer questions, as well as begin music therapy for the people in your world who could benefit the most. And remember, music works for all of us to make us feel more alive. Try listening to some of your favorite music today and see what happens. You may surprise yourself with the amount of life inside you.
Interim Executive Director / Development Director
Alive Inside Trailer
George* was one of our participants at Senior Bridges, an in-patient geropsychological hospital. Challenged by Alzheimer’s Disease, George was often extremely confused and agitated. This particular day, he was yelling profanities and fighting the nurses to get out of his seat at the beginning of a group music therapy session.
In the midst of his agitation, the music therapist gently approached him and asked, “Do you like the song ‘Amazing Grace’?” Suddenly, his body language changed. He relaxed back into his seat, and responded with wide-eyed, great enthusiasm, “I love it!” George began to sing with great clarity, smiling and completely at ease. One by one, other people in the common room joined in, along with George and the music therapist, singing Amazing Grace from memory.
After the song, George shared his vibrant memories of this song and how much he enjoyed singing with everyone.
Music therapy not only helped George to become more lucid and connect with others in the group, but also helped soothe his agitation and aggressive behavior. It was a powerful moment for George and everyone present, as he was restored to a state of well-being and connection.
*Name and identifying details changed for privacy
Music Therapy Perspectives – Caregivers and Music
Being a caregiver for a person with dementia requires a new set of communication skills. A person with dementia may have difficulty engaging in meaningful conversations with their caregiver, which can lead to social isolation, anxiety, and agitation for them, as well as a sense of helplessness, detachment, or frustration for the caregiver.
As is the case with many neurological and cognitive dysfunctions, people who struggle to communicate and socially engage still maintain the same needs for love, belonging, and social interaction. In order to meet the needs of everyone involved, we need to find creative ways to interact with people with dementia and maintain loving, positive relationships when language or memory is no longer the basis of connection.
In an ongoing research study titled, “The use of music therapy components to promote interaction between a person with dementia and a caregiver“, music therapists are assessing the impact of music therapy approaches designed for caregivers to genuinely interact and connect with people with dementia. The therapists developed two manuals, “Person Attuned Interaction” and “Person Attuned Music Interaction.” Data is being gathered on how mutual music making between a caregiver and a person with dementia helps both people engage meaningful ways.
If these manuals prove to be effective, we hope they will be distributed widely so that caregivers may have access to tools for interacting with people with dementia in positive ways. Where language difficulty and loss of other cognitive functions create a social barrier, music can be a bridge.
For ideas on how to interact with a loved one with dementia using music:
- Read this article: A Music Therapist’s Perspective on Music and Dementia
- Visit our website for resources
- Call for more information – 775-324-5521
Best of Facebook
The most popular post on Facebook this month was an article about adaptive music written by our instructor, Nate Eng, who teaches percussion, the Electronic Music Project, and piano lessons. Music lessons and opportunities for participation in music groups leads to profound results for people; a sense of belonging, purpose, and friendship. These are stories of Note-Able participants.
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Volunteer and Donor Appreciation Brunch – Saturday, June 3rd, 11:30am (McKinley Arts and Culture Auditorium) Our volunteer and donor brunch is a special day for us to say “thank you” to you, the people who are such a big part of bringing accessible music to our community. Our volunteers and donors of the last year are all welcome to join us, celebrate our volunteer and supporters of the year, along with special performances. Please call to RSVP. 775-324-5521
High Notes Society Breakfast – Friday, June 23rd, 8-9am (The Grove at SouthCreek) The High Notes Society Breakfast is a free and open breakfast fundraiser, supporting music therapy and adaptive music at Note-Ables. This event is particularly special with our families and participants sharing their stories themselves. This event is RSVP only, so if you decide to come, please let us know! Call 775-324-5521 or email Sarah Toney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teen Beat Summer Music Camp – July 10th – 14th, 10am – 2pm (McKinley Arts and Culture Center) Our Teen Beat Summer Music Camp is the highlight of the summer for many of our campers. It’s a camp for teens with disabilities to come sing, dance, learn about music, and create and perform a show for family and friends – all in a week! We have a few spaces still open. Fees are $100 for the week long camp. Call 775-324-5521 to register (ages 12-21).
The Note-Ables play ArtPaws – Sunday, July 16th, 4 – 5pm (McKinley Arts and Culture Center) The Note-Ables are a part of this great day of art, dogs, and music on the front lawn of McKinley.
One Hit Summer – The NMTS Artown Event! – Thursday, July 27th, 6pm (McKinley Arts and Culture Center) Come join us for our annual Artown event! One Hit Summer will feature performances by The Note-Ables, all of our classes, AND a reunion performance by Nothing Like a Dame. We’ll have games, activities for the kids, dancing for everyone, and food trucks. It’ll be a wonderful evening of community, music, and fun for people of all ages and abilities. $5 suggested donation.
May Thank Yous!
Thank you to our classroom and office volunteers! Mark Geeson, Tia Henderson, Marilyn Moon, Cindy Oesterle-Prescott, Chris Keenan, Cheryl Eckert, Jewelene Fritts, Ariel Miller, Tonia Meyers, Eric Gieseke, Lorelei Neft, Ken Vogel, Gregory Raymond and Cheyenne Underwood.
Thank you to our May donors! Marilyn Moon, Jaime Briscoe Collins, Mary Lee Fulkerson, Kate Kirkpatrick, Scott Harrington, William G. McGowan Fund, Terri Schultz, Susan Mazer-Smith and Dallas Smith, Shelby McAuliffe (McAuliffe Photography), and Gregory Raymond.
Music Quote of the Month
- Art supplies – anything you’re not using, we’ll find a use!
- Greeting cards and thank you notes
- iTunes gift cards
- Disposable food service goods, such as paper plates, cutlery, cups and napkins
- Postage stamps
Board of Directors
Kate Kirkpatrick – President Director of Public Information, Marketing & Communications, Truckee Meadows Community College
Dave Stockman – Treasurer President – Stillwater Foundation
Sandy Jacob – Secretary
Dennis Doty – Director Physical Therapist – HCR ManorCare
John Firestone – Director Executive Director – The Life Change Center
Give the gift of music!
Your donations provide for our low cost and adjustable-rate fees for classes, workshops, music therapy and music lessons! Every dollar donated helps people of all abilities to continue to have access to music therapy and programs.