Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#24 - Remembered

The power of music is very remarkable . . . one sees Parkinsonian patients unable to walk, but able to dance perfectly well or patients almost unable to talk, who are able to sing perfectly well. - Dr. Oliver Sacks, at the Hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging
Music is the universal language. Few forms of communication cut through the clutter more effectively than a beautiful melody and rhythm. It's pure sensory stimulation and studies show music prompts positive responses due to the feelings of familiarity, predictability, and security that are associated with it. For most of us, music also means memories and now for some Alzheimer's patients, music can mean medicine too.

Music therapy is a powerful and non-threatening medium so unique outcomes are possible. In an adult day care setting, interventions can be designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, and improve communication. And that's exactly what I witnessed (and photographed) during my one week three visit return this month to the Rosener House to continue working on my Alzheimer's photo-documentary project (see #22 - Forgotten).

Music therapy offers immediate and obvious responses. Even participants without a musical background can benefit from it. Research supports music therapy as a proven means for facilitating movement and overall physical rehabilitation, increasing motivation to engage in treatments, providing emotional support for participants and their families, and creating an outlet for expression of feelings. I agree. Once the music started at the center - whether it was recorded or live - everyone participated . . . singing, dancing, or simply listening.

Time flies while energy and happiness seem contagious during music therapy and for Alzheimer's patients, those are wonderful benefits. I'll bet some new memories are being made too.

When a couple danced together for the first time after five years of the husband's deterioration from Alzheimer's Disease, the wife said: "Thank you for helping us dance. It's the first time in three years that my husband held me in his arms." Tearfully, she said that she had missed him just holding her and that music therapy had made that possible.

(Note: Special thanks once again to Florence Marchick and the staff at the Rosener House Adult Day Center in Menlo Park, CA, for their continued support of my project. But most of all, thanks to my new friends - the participants - for the honor of meeting and photographing you.)