This time of year, the melodious sound of Christmas music can be heard ubiquitously, often prompting me to hum along. The lyrics of "Away in a Manger," and "Little Drummer Boy" are soothing to me amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. If it can be soothing to me, can it work its magic on people who suffer from dementia? What kind of effect does it have on individuals who are otherwise memory impaired? My questions were answered during a recent visit with my father.
Dad is eighty-three years old, and lives in a dementia "neighborhood" of an assisted living community. Interestingly, his former cantankerous personality has mostly disappeared as his dementia has progressed. As a child growing up in a financially strained household, Christmas held no special meaning for him. In fact, I cannot recall hearing my father singing or humming any kind of songs of the season when I was young. You can imagine my surprise when he started to sing "Silver Bells" during my recent visit with him! He heard it playing on a nearby radio, and started belting out the words! I was elated not only by his talented singing, but by the fact that he remembered the words! That paved the way for yet more singing! More importantly, the dementia has erased the memories of painful childhood Christmases. He is now able to open his heart, and fully enjoy the spirit of the season! This is truly a Christmas miracle!
The lesson learned from my experience is that holidays songs CAN have a positive effect on memory-impaired individuals. The gift of music is an absolute treasure for someone who may no longer be capable to fully understand the meaning of holidays. In turn, you will be amazed how uplifted YOU will feel afterwards. To me, there is no gift greater than the one I recently received.