Family uses music to connect with mother suffering from dementia

Max Darrow

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Emeryville, Calif. (KPIX) — Beginning with children playing music for their mothers in hopes of keeping their memories fresh, this event is held regularly in the East Bay It has evolved into a community event.

The event will be held at Watermark by the Bay, a seniors facility in Emeryville. The impact is severe.

“Sing, love, love, love!” enthusiastic resident Cathy Soucet.

Music is powerful. Sometimes it makes memories, sometimes it brings back memories. For those who have trouble remembering, like Cathy, who has dementia.

“I love them singing with us,” she said.

Her sons William and Jim, along with William’s wife Jennifer, sing and play music with her and the community every Thursday.

“When I look at her, it just makes me so happy to see her celebrating,” William said.

Numerous studies have shown that music can help improve mood, behavior and even cognitive function in people with dementia. William says he saw it firsthand with his mother. Although she suffers from dementia, she never misses a beat of the music and often remembers all the lyrics of her songs.

“Musical language is the language that speaks to her the most. Oral language is not,” he said. “Even though her condition has changed, her music hasn’t changed. She still remembers the lyrics of old songs. She probably responds to music more than she used to.”

William says music has become an important way for the family to connect with Kathy.

“I feel like I’m reconnecting with her,” he said. was doing it verbally, you were doing it through making plans, talking about the past, talking about the future, but suddenly they stop working, they have no meaning. So my relationship with my mother is difficult, but music is clearly a strong connection.”

The weekly amount of music originally started as a ritual in the Susae family. However, as time went on, more and more memory care residents began to show up. Now the Sousae family singalong is a community-wide event, filled with attendees eager to connect.

“There is a book called ‘I’m Still Here.’ People with dementia sometimes feel like they are not there anymore. I have experienced everyone there as I have been there and we are having an experience together in this exchange,” William said. My wife and I have found that even people who can’t sing the lyrics are tapping, participating and reacting.”

Even the people you love most can find it difficult to find ways to connect if they have dementia. But through their shared love of music, the Sousae family found a way to bridge that gap.

“It’s just a great way to communicate with your mom,” William said. “There is something that dementia loses. I have seen some things that she has gained. So what does that mean? It means everything.”

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