Today was a rough day at the facility. I’m not sure if the weather being overcast and cloudy has caused the worst behaviors to manifest, or if it’s just a bad day for dementia patients everywhere. Mrs B. is screaming at the top of her lungs, Ï brought you into this world and I will….”(she forgot the rest of the cliche). Mrs. M. is yelling, “Help me, help me”, Mr. K. is determined to fall from his wheelchair onto the floor and Mrs. S. is demanding to know when the turkey will be done.
“Where is the turkey?” she asks.
“In the oven,” I reply.
“You are a liar. You are too lazy to put it in the over.You are a liar.”
Five minutes later, she reappears in my office.
“Where is the turkey?”
“In the oven.”
“Okay, thank you.”
With that, she walks away, content and satisfied. A few minutes later I hear loud yelling from the sitting room. Mrs. S. is yelling at Mrs. B. over the location of, and who is watching the turkey.
Some days working in long term health care with dementia patients can be confusing. For a moment, I too, am unsure about the turkey, the location of said turkey and when t will be done. But it is my job to insure that no fights or riots break out, and everyone remains safe.
“Okay ladies,”, the turkey is out of the oven, it’s cooling, so it’s ok. Why don’t we listen to some music while we wait for it to cool down?” I found Patsy Cline’s greatest hymns, shuffled with a little Elvis,….within minutes the sitting room echoed the sounds of their voices singing along to the music. Mrs. S. leaned over to Mrs. W. and said, “That’s Betty Cline, I think her name is Betty Cline. She was killed in a car wreck.” Mrs. M. overhearing her quickly corrected her.
“Patsy Cline, not Betty. Pasty. She died in a airplane wreck not a car wreck.” No one seemed to notice Mrs. M.’s correction, for they were all too busy singing Amazing Grace.
Isn’t it amazing at the power of music? There is something about it, that calms the soul and warms the heart, creating a sense of peace. The turkey was forgotten, the yelling stopped and the debates ended. For a few minutes, all was calm.
I can’t explain how music works, or how it affects any of us, but I do know it is effective. When teenagers are having relationship issues, they play the saddest songs…..when they are happy, the play loud…loud.. ummm..not sure what kind of, or if it’s even music…but it sounds bouncy and high spirited. When we dine in fine resturants ( I define “fine” as being anything that does not come in a paper bag with a big M on the side of it)…we listen to soft classical or upbeat jazz. Babies have lullabys and cute songs about spiders….why we would sing a spider song to a baby I will never know, but it proves my point of the power of music. “Itsy Bitsy Spider” will be a childs favorite song…until they KNOW what a spider is. If you get into my jeep. 11 of the 12 preset buttons are on some form of religious music. The 12th one is set to easy listening just in case I have not-so religious riders in the car. Music…an inanimate sound that can create emotion. It has the power to soothe, calm and offend. It is one the most powerful forces in the world.
Many years ago when I was a youth director in my church, I used a series of videos (VHS….tells my age) titled “Hells Bells” for a Wednesday night youth series. The video showed how music impacted our youth, causing bad things to happen to to them…….It showed that by listening to the music, it would lead them to use drugs, kill puppies and become the next Manson. Needless to say, it was a very controversial series. Parents argued both sides of the fence….those who were former Woodstock fans saw no harm in any music….while those wo home schooled their kids praised the idea. I never formed my own opinion on the subject, and never really though about it again until now….20 years later.
I know music plays a role in everyone’s life. I know that all of us have a song in our heart and I know it works for dementia patients……and ya know….I simply hope that when I am old, someone will play the song in my heart, even long after I have forgotten the words…….. Just turn on Casting Crowns or Mercy Me…Phillips Craig and Dean…….oh, an put the turkey in the oven for me…..