It’s almost unbelievable, when you haven’t seen it, to realize the power of music even on people with advanced dementia. There’s this one resident at Clare Bridge who has been a dancer her whole life. Most of the time, she’s very quiet, very reserved. She is a little hunched over when she walks, and doesn’t say much, if anything, ever. She’s always pleasant and smiling, but she doesn’t interact often with other residents. Yesterday we turned on some music and encouraged everyone to dance. I was blown away when this petite, slightly hunched older woman got up and took my hand. Everyone clapped and laughed in amazement as she started to dance. Her hips moved like those of a woman many years younger, and her slightly hunched back straightened out and she even leaned back, throwing her hands in the air. She twirled and danced effortlessly, and most of the RA’s who walked by stopped to watch. “I had no idea she could dance,” one said.
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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.
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