Caregiving Monday: The Power of Music

Time and time again I’m amazed at the power of music.   I’ve shared many times how I believe this is the universal language and that still rings true.

So why do I believe this?

music soothes
music soothes

Well, let’s visit the Alzheimer’s unit and take a look:

Resident #1 has terrible flashbacks from a traumatic event as a child.  Talking only agitates her more in these moments.  However, as soon as I begin to sing she calms down.  Before the end of the song she is singing a-long.  After we finish the sing a-long, she sits quietly and is able to carry on a conversation.

Resident #2 is depressed.  As soon as I begin to sing, I see her eyes light up.  By the time we finish singing, she is clapping her hands and singing along.

Resident #3 ask me to sing or motions towards the piano every time I walk into the room.  Piano music and sing a-longs calms his agitation.

Resident #4 cannot speak, however every time I sing a certain song she has tears in her eyes.  Once again I’m reminded how this song touches her heart.

Resident #5 repeats the same phrases from a hymn over and over every time you speak with him.  That’s okay, because this song has struck a chord with him and we will continue to sing the song with each sing a-long.

Resident #6 does not speak, but when we begin to sing “You are My Sunshine” or “Jesus Loves Me” she can sing every word.

There are numerous ways to enjoy music. Dancing is one such way.
There are numerous ways to enjoy music. Dancing is one such way.

Resident #7 easily grows confused and frustrated in trying to recall the information she is seeking.  However, when we begin to sing she can sing the words to every hymn and oldies song.  Her husband is so amazed he ask her to sing every time he visits.

Resident #8 doesn’t enjoy singing, but brightens up when we use the hand bells and wants to play the bells.

Resident #9 also isn’t a singer, but enjoys moving to music when we toss a balloon, move with scarves or dance to music.   She is proof, that there are other ways to implement music other than just through singing and playing.

Resident #10 is easily agitated and does not enjoy a lot of music.  She will call out and disrupt her peers.  However, putting on a CD of soothing music calms her down and she quickly quietens down.

In what ways have you used the power of music to help someone that has dementia?


Caregiving Monday: Reasoning with Alzheimer’s

often Alzheimer's patients suffer from hallucinations and paranoia
often Alzheimer’s patients suffer from hallucinations and paranoia

For a while, GG had hallucinations, until her medicines were changed.  We tried to explain to her that although we believed her, we could not see the children she saw.  She would look at us like we’d lost our minds.  In time, we discovered sometimes the best thing was to go along and talk with the children and tell them to leave.  This seemed to suit her much better.

Alzheimer’s is a very difficult disease on everyone involved.  Hallucinations, past memory regression, and an alternate reality will often appear to the patient.   As caregivers we often want to reason with them, but this often causes our loved one to become more agitated, frustrated and even explosive at times.

One thing I learned in my training as a caregiving is telling “Therapeutic lies.”  The term is defined as the practice of deliberately deceiving patients for reasons considered in their best interest.” {from]

So how do we reason with Alzheimer’s?

Finding the window to help Alzheimer's deal with their reality
Finding the window to help Alzheimer’s deal with their reality
  1. Pick your battles—is this really worth fighting over?
  2. There is no need upsetting the patient—if they think a parent or sibling is still alive go along with it. Maybe use generic answers such as “we’ll see them later, they are working, etc.”
  3. If telling the truth is going to be more detrimental or traumatic to the individual
  4. Try redirecting the individual and getting their mind on something more positive {or different}
  5. Understanding when the patient may need to talk about an issue and listening, such as when they are grieving.
  6. Try to use methods that will relieve anxiety and stress
  7. Ask questions to gain more information. For example if the individual thinks she is 21 and single, ask questions about her life at that time {what does she enjoy doing, is she dating anyone, what year is it, who does she live with, where does she work/go to school, etc.}.  This gives a glimpse into her lives back then and you’ll be amazed at what you may discover.
  8. Music is often soothing and may calm the patient
  9. How can you handle a situation without demeaning, hurting or embarrassing the patient?
We have to find a new normal
We have to find a new normal

Remember, that often it takes trial and error to discover what works.  When dealing with this disease you have to think fast on your feet.  What works one time may not work the next.  I’ve even discovered that what works for one individual may not work for another.

The main thing to remember is that when reasoning with Alzheimer’s strive to calm the patient and help him/her deal with the stress and frustration that is being felt.

How have you reasoned with Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Awareness

Alzheimer's awareness


Sunday is the longest day of the year and the Alzheimer’s association is asking that everyone wear purple to raise the awareness of Alzheimer’s.

Have you taken the pledge to raise Alzheimer’s awareness?

How has Alzheimer’s effected your life?

How do you raise Alzheimer’s awareness?

Caregiving Monday: Celebrating 100 Years

Living 100 years is a major accomplishment.   The history, heartache and joys that have been experienced during this time are numerous.   I love to talk with those that have made reached this milestone {and those nearing it by 10-20 years}.  There is so much history and life lessons that can be learned.  If you know anyone close to such a monumental celebration, I encourage you to take the time to record a living history {record their memories and history}.

We’ve all seen on the Today Show where those celebrating 100+ years are recognized and honored.  But, how do they go about contacting the Today show and other agencies for this honor?

Below are some contacts to help:

The Today Show:  Please contact 6-8 weeks in advance

Williard Scott of The Today Show
Williard Scott of The Today Show

Send a written request with a photo, birth date, something unique/personal about the person (ie. hobbies, accomplishments) and a contact telephone number to (centenarians are picked randomly to be recognized on the show):

Willard Scott Birthdays TODAY show, NBC News 4001 Nebraska Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20016 or email the information to:

According to their website: “If your grandmother is chosen, you will receive a phone call before the show airs. Otherwise, she will get a birthday letter from Willard Scott.”


National Centenarian Awareness Project

Form at


President of United States

Online form:

Mailed:  White House Greetings Office, Room 39, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, DC 20502. birthday card

Fax:  202.395.1232.

Include the full name(s), address and title (Miss, Mrs., Ms., Mr.) of the recipient, plus the date and event being celebrated. Also, include your full name and phone number in case there are any questions.

Please contact a minimum of 6-8 weeks in advance to receive on time.


Greetings From Past Presidents

  • Bill Clinton, Correspondence Director, Office of William Jefferson Clinton, 55 West 125th Street, New York, New York 10027, (f)212-348-9245
  • Office of George Bush, P.O. Box 79798, Houston TX 77279-9798
  • Jimmy Carter, Carter Center, 1 Copenhill, 453 Freedom Pkwy., Atlanta, GA 30307.
  • George W Bush, Office of George W Bush, PO Box 259000, Dallas, TX  75225


For residents of UK/Canada the Queen of England will send an acknowledgementcard from Queen

Send copy of birth certificate/proof of age to:

Assistant Private Secretary
Buckingham Palace, London

Write “Anniversary” in top left hand corner of envelope


Don’t forget to check with your state.   This information varies by state, but check the Governor’s office, Lt. Governor’s office or if there is an Office of Aging for the State.

In South Carolina, we have the SC Centenarian Society   form at


Other sources to consider or check with: {this can also be used for 50+ Anniversaries}100

  • Local newspaper
  • State newspaper
  • Society/organization individual was involved with
  • Church {they may want to honor the individual or write up an article for their newsletter}
  • Nursing facility {if they are in a nursing facility–they may throw a party or allow you to throw one.  Also, if they have a newsletter or announcement screen they may be willing to post the information.}

Please remember to give plenty of notice to any sources.   Also, the more accommodating and willing you are to provide requested items {information, memories, pictures, etc.} will be greatly appreciated.

What other sources do you recommend?

Caregiving Monday: Dealing with Trauma

The love of family can make a difference
The love of family can make a difference



Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and there are times when traumatic moments and horrific memories return to traumatize the patient.

So what are some ways to calm the patient?

Music has a healing power
Music has a healing power


  1. Redirect the patient and see if you can get their mind on something else
  2. Allow the patient to speak about the incident—some need to express their feelings and what was experienced in a safe and loving environment. Never judge or push for information, but allow the patient to share what s/he is comfortable with.
  3. Music—sing a song or hymn that is comforting to the patient. If you can’t sing, put on some soothing music, whether it is a collection of hymns or instrumental {especially piano} music.
  4. Pray—if the patient is a praying person, ask them to pray or if you can pray with them. I have seen amazing changes happen with prayer in a person with Alzheimer’s.

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer changes things
  5. Love—sometimes the patient just needs to feel loved and safe
  6. Touch—the power of touch is powerful. Often a hand on the shoulder or a pat of the hand does amazing wonders in soothing a patient that is troubled.  This is a comforting act to him/her.
  7. Family—sometimes seeing a familiar face is all that is needed. I have seen Alzheimer’s patient’s entire demeanor change when they are able to see a spouse, child or grandchild.  This brings comfort and assures the patient that s/he is not alone and not forgotten.

What has worked for you in dealing with traumatic situations in an Alzheimer’s patient?

Caregiving Monday: It’s Not Personal

When dealing with Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients we get a variety of responses.

One moment the resident may be the sweetest and calmest person, and a moment later s/he may be cussing you out.

This is not personal.  This is not a personal attack on the second party in any way.missing puzzle

The important thing to remember is this is the disease.

So how do you respond?

  • First and foremost, with love—stay calm and answer in a calm, loving manner
  • Step away if the stress of the moment becomes too much
  • Do not take it personally
  • Observe the environment—is there something that may be setting the individual off? Knowing the person really helps to understand the triggers.  Does noise irritate the person, was there a bad night, is there a person that sets the person off, etc.
  • Soothe the individual. I have found that music is always a wonderful healer, but sometimes you have to try different techniques to find the right one for that individual
  • Check with your physician to discuss medications and the effects on the resident
  • Take away any triggers—if possible

Above all, remember this is the frustration and disease speaking and not your loved one.

How do you deal with outbursts?