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There are 2 things I would like to touch on today the first is music and memory and the other is word association and memory.|
Music has been found to enhance memory in patients with dementia. Music has long been used to enhance memory by those in education (like singing the ABC’s). Researchers have now discovered that music can also have a practical application for those with dementia. For unknown reasons it seems the brain is able to process music and lyrics even though the mind is gone from dementia.
At Boston University, they did a study where they took the lyrics from 40 unfamiliar children’s songs divided them into sung and spoken. The test subjects were then sung half of the songs and others were read aloud.
Test subjects without dementia were able to recall to an equal degree whether they were read or sung. The dementia subjects were better on the ones that were sung. The ones read to dementia patients had almost no recall.
They then speculated it might be results related to the fact that the brain processes music more, even globally, then the memory centers in the brain which are the first to affected by the disease.
Since I am a musician and singer this sounds just delightful. Maybe I can write some songs to help folks remember their meds or shutting fridge doors or knows what else…. interesting concept…at least to me.
Now word association…
Since the onset my guy has had trouble remembering folks names. Putting names with faces is one memory issue we dread; the thought of walking into the room and our loved one not knowing who we are. I know how it was when my own mother didn’t know me so at least this time around I may be a little better prepared. So to deal with this issue we came up with a little game of sorts.
When we first get to know someone new, or to try and remember names of folks we have known, we used word association for him to help remember their names. Now some of these names are strange but if it helps him to remember who is who, then so be it. Here is a small list of some, Dirt Chick Don, Preacher Larry, the Harvesters, Alaska, Pee Dee Pat, Bolt Chick, Salvage Sam, Misery Maillady, Blondie, the Golfers, English Sue…these are just a few, but I think you get my drift…
Now when we go to local social outings, he can remember their names by using this word association. Of course there are certain meanings behind these names as we gave personality or our views of them to the names for easier remembering.
If you go back 2-3 years, you can see how far into dementia my beloved man was. Truthfully, it scared the heck out of me. His progression into the disease was more than enough for the doc to go with his LBD diagnosis. At one point I really thought he would become just comatose on me, and I would no longer enjoy his stories, his jokes and his awesome personality. He constantly left things on and open, lights, fridge doors, couldn’t remember half our friends names, didn’t know what day, month or year it was. He didn’t know if he ate or drank or what he had to eat or drink. Medicines were not even a part of his vocabulary. He couldn’t complete a sentence, could hardly ever find the words. His love for writing evaporated because he was never sure if he even made any sense. While there were no true signs of depression, I felt in my mind that it was sure to come next. His love for doing his fishing reels went away not only because of the tremors and muscle spasms, but also because his mind couldn’t focus on all those tiny parts and making sure they went back into the right order and place. He couldn’t follow a recipe nor even prepare, or tell me how to prepare certain foods. I truly felt his mind was gone and would never return.
I am happy to say after doing what we have in the past year with most of what I have written about, plus adding some herbs and such to our routine; his mind is better. He is not of the genius category again, but he can socialize with others and not be afraid that he comes across wrong. The words don’t come sometimes, there are still speaking issues, but not as bad as they once were. He is back to his writings now and then, with his wit and wisdom in tact. He will play with folks about his dementia and at times playfully use it to his advantage. ☺ Remembering a series of numbers or words is still a struggle, but better than it was before.
A lot of my caregiver worries that came about due to the dementia, have fallen to the wayside for now. Having to go around and shut fridge doors, turn off lights and so much more, are things I no longer consider. I can go to a friend’s house and visit, stay the night and not worry whether he burnt the house down, perhaps hurt himself or forgot to take his meds. We use our phones to communicate about the meds, so I still help with that. Knowing what day of the week it is, well truthfully sometimes I have to check the calendar just because we have no work schedule to follow and the days just run into each other.
Cognitively, in my opinion, he is much better than a year ago. Even our last trip to the Movement doc, he stated he wasn’t sure if he really had dementia anymore. I told the doc what we have been doing in that year and he was excited that it was working.
If your loved one is slipping, even if they are at the point where my guy was and if they are willing, this does work. It takes a lot of work and effort on both parts, patient and caregiver, but I can testify to the fact that we are at a different place in life because of it.