my mammy had alzheimers.
My Father in law had late onset.dementia.
While they both lived with degenerative memory – they both retained a love of and a “memory” pocket of MUSIC.
The power of music amazes me.
Mammy left us only 14 months ago. She had been a great musician, and an inspiration to me as a child. Mam’s music brought much enjoyment to many before i even attempted to.
In the worst days of mammy’s “fog” she could sing WORD for WORD many songs.
I sang to them both, an they could join in and with a tiny prompt remember even the rarely used verses.
mammy in particular, also had a really detailed “pitch” recall. – she developed a habit of”whistling” – a habit she never had in her health. But she didn’t whistle noise…it was melody.
We also bought, or rather daddy bought mam an accordion as she had played one in her youth,…although she didn’t remember how to play it, I would pick it up, and she would whistle with me- correcting the bits i went wrong in… ALL her days!… fascinating.She was merciless too – as a non accordion player, i would be exhausted by the time we were finished…she’d even demand second verses on her favourite ones!
And it was something which did strike me strongly. Mammy had preferred “listening repertoire” which luckily daddy would put on for her, and she would idly whistle along to. Even in hospital…on the last few days that mam was with us, her physical health failing, despite the high level of confusion and agitation in a strange place, i would sing to mammy…and she would drift off into a relaxed sleep. She would waken and make sure it was still me, and my voice, but sleep would overcome her attempts to stay awake. One of my songs did not impress her, and to be honest it was one i thought she loved, but i only got through a few bars and i got a half-a-smack on the leg, and a “not that ould thing!” which she clearly meant. Once we realised mammy was in hospital for a few days Daddy also brought in one of her CDs for the hospital room.
I know there is a LOT to be learned about alzheimers by living WITH it. Experts by experience not theory. We were blessed that daddy was able to be mammy’s “constant” – and by that i do mean 24/7 care. And that daddy was thoughtful enough to change toe CD, think of new ideas, and care in every way for mammy.
Mammy NEVER lost her music.
Was glad, so, that at some stage it had seemed correct to me – LONG in advance of mammy being at risk of dying, to select “special music”. Each piece that held a memory. Arranged it musically and chose a group of close friends, of valued and trusted musical friends, who when the time came, did justice, in suited beautiful subtle tones to mammy’s life in music.
Music mattered to us all. It always will.