I Can't Play


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“She used to play by ear,” her daughters had told me. “She was really good.”

Knowing this, I wheeled Samantha towards the piano. She was agitated, and crying out for assistance. I had a feeling that the piano may calm her down.

“No, no, no, no,” Samantha said. “I don’t know any songs…I can’t play…I don’t know any songs…” she protested as I rolled her wheelchair up to the instrument.

Samantha quieted suddenly as she reached the piano, resting her hands confidently on the keys.

She watched her fingers as they moved, playing a song that she could not identify by name. Samantha was clearly a woman who had played piano many times before.

The song was beautiful, and the music flowed easily from her fingers.

Her song finished, and she turned to me.

“See, I don’t know anything else,” Samantha said to me. “I can’t play,” she began saying again, taking her fingers off the keys.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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