When the Visit Doesn’t Go Well…

The Mother’s Day visit did not go so well…Mom was angry, and her assisted living center was busy and all suggestions to go for a walk or out to eat were met with negativity or agitation.

Now Father’s Day is coming up and you are tense and depressed over a possible replay of another visit making you and a parent unhappy and frustrated. Dementia can complicate matters; stress can provoke bewildering outbursts in a dementia patient and leave family members feeling helpless and unable to connect.

How can you make time spent with your elderly mom or dad in a nursing home or memory care center a positive experience for both of you?

You can play music.

Multiple studies have shown that music reaches elderly patients with cognitive issues when all else fails.

“Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s,” said Linda Maguire, lead author of a 2013 study on dementia, music and cognition.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has produced research detailing music’s behavioral influences: “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.”

There are some wonderful free or inexpensive smartphone music apps that allow you to create a portable playlist of favorites for your mom or dad. I Heart Radio (download from your phone’s app store) has even compiled the musical hits of each high school graduating class back to the 1950s – just click on the free playlist for the year selected and the music is ready to go!

Perhaps the key to a ‘good’ visit with a parent dealing with an incapacitating disease is not in doing, but in listening. Time spent together sharing favorite old concerts or popular tunes, singing or humming along with the music – these moments can strike a calm, connective chord that reaches back to the person that you both remember. ~


Marisa Home Care

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note (NYT 2018)

New Ways Into the Brain’s ‘Music Room’ (NYT 2016)