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Let The Music Play: Connecting Through Dementia

Let The Music Play: Connecting Through Dementia

Susan was overwhelmed. Her job allowed her to work from home to care for her mother, Adeline, but juggling work tasks with her mother’s increasing need for care proved challenging beyond what she thought was possible. 

Adeline had dementia and colon cancer. She had been a school teacher and in between moments of agitation she still had a warm, friendly tone to her now nonsensical speech.

As a music therapist for Adeline, I would visit her home, and Susan was always quick to apologize as their three large, joyful rescue dogs tripped over each other to greet me at the door, or tried to vocalize along with our music. Even with a caregiver eight hours a day and support from our hospice staff, Susan was hurried and anxious.

Susan grieved her mother’s cognitive decline. Growing up, she had admired her mother’s intelligence and was taught to value her own. Now that Adeline could no longer answer simple questions, Susan felt her mom was "already gone." She spoke of rare moments of increased lucidity like visits from a ghost — each time her mother was able to orient to reality and speak with her, she knew it may be the last time.

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