Music and Alzheimer's

A couple of years ago Antony and I went to visit his father in southeast DC. We brought along our guitars in the hopes that our playing would be a salve and a relaxant to Antony’s father, who at this point was becoming easily agitated. Antony’s father was a musician and had loved to dance, but not surprisingly since the onset of his disease he hadn’t been able to do much of either.

Antony is almost without variation a cool, collected person with a mild temperament, so any deviation is obvious to people who know him. But when we arrived at his parent’s house and saw his father, it felt to me like his look wasn’t one of fear or anxiety, but of a muted sadness. He had the look of someone who accepted what he saw while it remained something wholly alien to him, as if Richard Dreyfuss hadn’t bothered making mashed potato mountains but had calmly said to himself, “Well, now. This alien thing is life altering and I’ll never be able feel the same about anything. I wonder why in the world my wife made so much mashed potatoes.”

But when we sat down, pulled our instruments out and started playing old Beatles and Motown era soul tunes, his father slowly edged out of his chair, stood up and started to dance with his wife, humming along to the lyrics. It was an eye opening experience and has made me see the unexpected results that even the simplest actions can have. Not only was it good for Antony’s father, but it allowed all of us to see a glimmer of his personality shine beyond the limitations of the disease, and it bolstered the strength and solidarity of his family.

Here are a few links that talk about the positive effects of music on those coping with Alzheimer’s:……