Local News Since 1890 Now Online!

Posts Tagged ‘senior health’

Music shines light through darkness of dementia

In Health, Local News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on August 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm

DIH LOGOAccording to statistics, one in three senior Americans now suffers from some type of dementia. My mother, Lois Deer, was one of those unfortunate millions who had an advanced type of Alzheimer’s disease. As it progressed, she lost the ability to communicate on anything more than a passive level, responding to very little, short of a head nod or facial response here and there. When she spoke, it was in whispers and then only gibberish.

One thing that did seem to register, however, was music. Each Saturday night we would move her wheelchair to the band room at my parents’ farm where our family band, “The Brothers & Co.,” would rehearse. We would feed her dinner – a manual task since she couldn’t do it on her own – and she’d spend most of the rest of the evening listening to us play and sing, surrounded by family in a room she created for us.

Gery Deer discusses Music and Dementia on WDTN-TV2's Living Dayton during a "Deer In Headlines" segment. Click to watch the video clip ...

Gery Deer discusses Music and Dementia on WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton during a “Deer In Headlines” segment. Click to watch the video clip …

Music was an important part of my mother’s family growing up, with virtually ever member playing some kind of instrument, many of them without the aide of formal lessons. She even sang in an “Andrews Sisters” type quartet with her own sisters in the late 1950s.

By this time, however, Usually, she had a kind of empty, blank expression on her face, a typical Alzheimer’s manifestation. But one evening during our practice, she was sitting near my piano and I caught sight of a slight smile in her eyes and looked down to see her toe tapping on the footrest of her chair.

Since Mom needed 24-hour care, and because we had no intention of leaving her to rot in a nursing home, we cared for her at home and she came along with us to every performance. She had a specially-outfitted seat on our tour bus, complete with an oxygen tank and all of our portable medical supplies. My cousin sat with her in the audience and she would sing, “You are my sunshine,” with us at some point in every show. Music got through, when nothing else would, and I’m relieved to know that I’m not the only one who noticed.

Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

A friend recently told me about a National Public Radio news story related to this phenomenon. The piece focused on a documentary featuring social worker Dan Cohen and his creation of custom music playlists on iPods for elderly dementia patients. Titled, “Alive Inside,” the film explores Cohen’s exploration of the connection between music and long term memory.

“Even though Alzheimer’s and various forms of dementia will ravage many parts of the brain, long-term memory of music from when one was young remains very often,” Cohen told NPR’s Melissa Block. “So if you tap that, you really get that kind of awakening response. It’s pretty exciting to see.”

That all makes a lot of sense when you think about the kinds of music my family band plays and the relationship my mother had to it. There’s no question we were reaching an area of her mind that the Alzheimer’s hadn’t yet shorted out.

After I noticed my mother’s reactions, I paid more attention whenever we performed at nursing facilities where a great number of the residents were suffering from similar illnesses. I can’t tell you what a heart-wrenching experience it always is to see these poor people in such a state; doubled over in wheelchairs, closed off, withdrawn into the isolated torment of their own disease-ravaged minds. And then …

And then we start playing and something would happen, a toe would begin to tap here and there, or a silent face would begin to mouth words to a song. Although it might seem like there’s nothing left of the people they once were, here was a sign that they were still in there – somewhere – and we were reaching into that one place the disease couldn’t penetrate.

All I can imagine is that the music we were playing took my mother somewhere else within a mind that’s organization had long since scattered, as if someone rearranged all the drawers in a wardrobe chest.  She was in another place and another time, a better time.

Christina Corallo, North Shore LIJ Orzach Center for Rehabilitation, Valley Stream, N.Y., tells MusicandMemory.org, “Patients with anxiety and depression are less agitated and appear calmer. The music transports them to a happier place in their minds.”

"The Sutton Sisters" singing family, Lois Deer (far right) and her sisters, (from left) Ruth Rowe, Isabel Jones, and Regina Marshall, ca. 1958

“The Sutton Sisters” singing family, Lois Deer (far right) and her sisters, (from left) Ruth Rowe, Isabel Jones, and Regina Marshall, ca. 1958

Cohen’s idea of customized iPod playlists for each patient is still plagued by one major hurtle – money. Nursing care, particularly long-term dementia care, is incredibly expensive and iPods aren’t cheap. It’s the same financial roadblock encountered by virtually every other progressive therapy for dementia ever proposed.

With that, I am challenging one member of the family of every dementia patient to buy an iPod for their loved one and load it with music from their life. Give them a moment to feel who they once were in the most personal, powerful way possible – through music.

 Learn More About Music and Memory…

Click here for a link to the full NPR story,”For elders with dementia, musical awakenings,” by Melissa Block.

Click here to watch the trailer, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory” featuring Dan Cohen.

Donate to Music & Memory: Monetary or iPods 

 

 

Advertisements

Starve A Cold and Stay In Bed

In Business, Children and Family, Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on November 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

 

When I was helping to care for my mother towards the end of her life, my cousin and I did everything we could to limit her exposure to even the slightest sneeze or sniffle. Everything from the bed rails to the wheelchairs was repeatedly and regularly wiped down with antibacterial solutions to prevent her from picking up a random bug that, in her weakened condition, could possibly be life-threatening.

Of course, we couldn’t protect her from everything. From time to time, we would have to take her out of the controlled environment of her home for doctor visits, family functions and sometimes just to give her some fresh air. But what I grew increasingly paranoid of was the amazing number of people who would go about their day suffering from severe colds or other illnesses, seemingly ignorant to the potential dangers they posed to others.

Despite other achievements, medical science is still remarkably ignorant of the common cold and its associated contagions. Doped up on symptom-hiding chemicals, people plod blearily through the day without a second thought to the fact that they could make others seriously ill just by being the last person to push a door open or use a shopping cart.

More mind-blowing are the numbers of healthcare workers and restaurant servers who go to work sick and are allowed to remain at their post. This is just ridiculous. I understand that it’s hard to take a day off when you’re working hour by hour but by staying home you may be losing a few bucks but you might be keeping someone else from becoming deathly ill, and getting yourself back to health a bit faster.

So how do you know when you should call in sick? On Tuesday, November 20, Dr. Holly Phillips, on CBS This Morning’s Health Watch, offered these suggestions for knowing when you should stay home. “It’s hard to know when you should call out sick,” she notes. “A fever, particularly in the 101 – 102 degree range, accompanied by aches and pains, might signal the flu, and you should definitely stay home.”

“A milder fever, sore throat white patches on tonsils indicates a strep infection and it’s probably time for some antibiotics, so a doctor visit is recommended,” she says. “A low grade fever coupled with a cough and sniffles mild signal a mild cold, so it’s your choice to stay home or not. But if you choose to go to work, be kind to your co-workers and wash your hands often and cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and don’t handle food.”

Researchers say that the common cold costs American business more than $25 billion every year. More than $17 billion of that loss is attributed to people who go to work sick and are therefore less productive. In my opinion, wives tales and ignorance are also major contributors to that loss.

For years, people thought a cold or other infections illness came from being outside in the rain or by not wearing a coat outside on chilly days. These behaviors lower the immune system, but colds and other diseases come from other people through some kind of contact, either person-to-person, or person-to-object. We spread these things ourselves, no divine intervention is required. In the end, it’ll be our own ignorance that kills us.

I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you from my own experiences that the number one part of preventing colds and flu is in sanitation. Maintaining a clean sink and toilet, using liquid instead of bar soaps, paper towels or air dryers and, when you can’t wash, antibacterial wipes and gels.

An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. If you do have a cold or some other issue that has you sneezing and coughing all day, please consider those around you. Had we not been so proactive, my mother could have died much earlier from complications of what to some people are just minor respiratory issues.

If you work in food service, stay home. If you work in medical care or around kids and the elderly, stay home. And as they always say, get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.