It is one of the curiosities of dementia that even non-verbal patients can sometimes sing along with music. The memories of favorite songs rest deep in the brain stem and music allows the brain to access them, bringing joy to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Now it seems that other activities can elicit happy memories as well and bring comfort to those with dementia.
A senior center in Crystal, Minnesota has found that a love of trains helps Alzheimer’s patients to share fond memories and find comfort. Two friends, each with Alzheimer’s disease, go to the senior center to operate their model trains. They are following doctor’s orders to keep busy and keep their brains as active as possible to stave off the debilitating effects of the disease. “You have to use your hands, motor skills, and it makes you think,” one man said. “You design things, build them, and I’m always looking for ways to improve them.” It’s that type of brain activity and friendship that fights the effects of dementia.
A group home in Victoria, Kansas uses music to comfort dementia patients, with great success. iPods with personalized playlists are delivered to patients so that they can listen to their favorite songs and types of music. “It’s meant to bring back happy memories,” said Allison Krier, the home’s residential coordinator.
Music from one’s younger life brings back happy memories that comfort dementia patients who are apt to experience high levels of anxiety. “I have somebody who loves show tunes. So every single song on his iPod is show tunes,” Krier said. “He will just sit there for half an hour, and just tap his foot and sing along to it.”
In Palm Coast, Florida, robotic pets are eliciting happy memories from dementia patients and providing them with comfort. A furry harp seal pup interacts with patients at an assisted living and memory care residence, but it’s not real, it’s a robot. Its presence is designed to calm patients and encourage nurturing feelings to direct them away from negative feelings, anxiety, and depression. The robot recognizes her name (Chloe), will look up when spoken to, wags her tail, goes to sleep at night and has tactile sensors that respond to touching. Facility executives say that the robot “… works through the brain’s ability to adapt by forming new neural pathways. Stimuli, such as interaction with Chloe, help to form those neural pathways, so the brain can reconnect old memories and build new ones.”
In Berlin, Germany “yesteryear” rooms provide hours of comfort for women with dementia. The rooms are filled with memorabilia from the 1960s and 1970s including magazines, laundry detergent, salt and pepper shakers and any number of household items from that era. When the women walk in the room, they leave their walkers by the door, don plastic aprons and begin to make the traditional foods that they prepared daily when they were younger. Before the room was created, many of these women couldn’t get out of bed and wouldn’t eat. Now, the memory therapy is activating the memories that are still retained in their brains. Connecting with familiar memories allows these women to get out of bed and engage in activities.
Old routines in familiar environments help to nurture feelings of happiness and contentment. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia cannot be cured. From the moment of onset they steadily deteriorate the brain. However, providing comfort to the people suffering with these cognitive diseases goes a long way toward helping them remain happy and calm in the later stages of the disease.
For families seeking Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care, a Life Care Manager provides the necessary support, guidance, resources, and appropriate care—all from the comfort of your loved one’s home.
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