The easy addition of music


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“They don’t really like music, so we stopped playing it,” one of the caregivers told me. 

“Okay,” I replied. I knew, at this point, there was no point in arguing about it—it was much easier to show them the change music can make. I also knew that the assertion that the “residents didn’t like music” was not accurate. Maybe one resident didn’t like it. Maybe some staff members didn’t like it. But, overall? I was pretty sure that most of the residents liked it.

I was browsing Amazon for a retro-looking CD player when an activities assistant stopped me. “We have a brand new one down one of the other hallways!” she said, excitedly. “No one has been using it.”

“Perfect,” I said, and asked if she could go get it for me. 

I had the CD player set up in about ten minutes in a popular location in the dementia care wing.

I went to their large collection of CDs and picked out one with limited lyrics: a 50s swing-type CD.

Nearly as soon as I hit play, a male resident came dancing out of the dining room.

He smiled at me. “Did you know I used to be a dancer?” he asked me. 

“It looks like you’re still a dancer,” I replied.

He moved easily across the floor, dancing in time to the music. Another resident, a woman, came into the hallway. “I like this,” she said, nodding. 

Sometimes it is better to show than to tell.

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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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