“Sing Along with Margaret” features songs I recorded with my mom. No longer able to talk, singing was one of the main ways Mom communicated. And she loved to sing: it made her happy, improved her mood, calmed her down, and helped her sleep. Many people with dementia benefit from music. This project is unique because this music is not only for people with Alzheimer’s disease, it is sung by a special lady who had the disease, and she continues to share her joy with others.
The Power of Music
Music is very powerful, and research shows it is has many benefits for people with dementia. Musical responsiveness, as well as sensory awareness and emotional memory, are considered “continuing abilities” for people with dementia, as these skill often remain intact and are rarely compromised by the disease. Our music evokes a response, stimulates the senses, and taps into emotions and memories, and that’s why this type of music intervention is so beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s disease and advanced dementia.
The Wisconsin Dementia Care System Redesign: A Plan for a Dementia-Capable Wisconsin (published in 2014 by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) recommends the Music & Memory program, which teaches caregivers and health professionals how to create play lists of “favorite songs” that are then delivered using an iPod with headphones. The program is evidence based, and I have every reason to believe that it works because I did something similar on my own with my mother.
I happen to be musically inclined: I play piano and guitar and I like to sing, so music has always been a part of my mom’s care at home. She responded much better to “live” music than recorded music. If I played my guitar in her room, she was much more engaged. If I played a CD of a familiar singer (like Elvis, one of Mom’s favorites!) it was mostly just background noise to her and she didn’t respond as well. It was when I (or someone else in her room) sang to her and with her when music had the best results. The only thing was I was playing my guitar or keyboard so often that my fingers hurt. So I decided to record the songs, just using the built-in mic on my laptop and then burning the songs to a CD that played on a boombox. The “live” recordings of the music worked great, and I played the CDs and sang with her while I held her hand, or while I washed her hair or gave her a bath. The music helped her relax and she was more willing to cooperate.
While it is important to find music that is meaningful, there are several songs that are universal and well-liked and known by just about everyone, such as “You Are My Sunshine,” “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” For my mom, there was one song that always snapped her out of a bad mood (whether it was sundowning, anxiety, hallucinations, or fighting at bath time) and that’s the old German folk tune “Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen.” Some of her other favorites were “Bicycle Built for Two,” “The Band Played On,” “I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover,” and “Wooden Heart.” Repetition is not a problem. She could listen to these few songs over and over, and for people with dementia, the repetition can help: it might take a few choruses of “You Are My Sunshine” before they start singing along.
The transformation can be phenomenal. People with advanced dementia withdraw further and further into an isolated world. Music brings back pleasant memories of the past, but by singing with you, it connects them to the present and to shared moments of joy.
We want to bring this joy to others with Alzheimer’s disease and advanced dementia. We want to share our music as “permanent digital downloads” available through ReverbNation (similar to iTunes). These songs will be available to health care professionals and caregivers who use the Music & Memory program, but they will also be available to anyone who wants to download them and share them with a loved one.
Many of the songs we recorded are in the public domain; however, there are some that are still under copyright and require a license to distribute digitally. We are currently obtaining the license through The Harry Fox Agency to include those songs that are not in the public domain. We successfully raised the funds to cover the costs so that we can then offer these songs FREE to those using the Music & Memory program or to any one who wants to use these songs with those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Without support from donors, we would have to charge at least $1 per download to cover the licensing fees. We feel this cost would be a burden on families caring for a loved one with dementia. With the help from generous friends and supporters, we can provide our music to hundreds of people at no cost to them.
We Continue to Need Your Help
We recently ran a successful Kickstarter project (please visit our Kickstart page for more information). We raised enough funds for the first phase of our project, but we continue to need your help! We are able to accept donations through Paypal. Just click the Paypal button below for a secure way to donate to our project.
Note: Donations made through Paypal are linked to our parent company, Advantage Consulting Services, LLC (see legal disclaimers at the bottom of this page). A full 100% of donations support the “Sing Along with Margaret” project.
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