A woman with Alzheimer’s sitting in a wheelchair brightens and sings along with music notes swirling around her.

Music Is Sometimes Better Than Meds

My mom was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's, experiencing a number of Alzheimer’s symptoms. For several months I had been driving from Ohio back to Virginia every other weekend to be with her.

Memories of my mom at chapel

On Sunday mornings, before I would be leaving for the return trip back to Ohio, I would arrive early at her nursing home. Mom’s aide Linda would have her dressed neatly, her makeup applied, and she would be ready for ‘Chapel’.

Choir members from a local church would have arrived and would be stopping by each room with a smile, inviting residents to join them. This day my mom was ready to enjoy!

Now, my mother had not been able to speak for some time. But that morning during hymn singing, the pianist began playing the strains of the hymn, “Amazing Grace”. To my utter amazement, my mom sang every word!

The benefits of music

Years later I discovered that music reaches areas of the brain not affected by Alzheimer’s. An April 2018, a study by a team at the University of Utah Health reported that music may facilitate attention, reward, and motivation, which in turn makes it more possible to manage emotional distress in Alzheimer’s.1

All I can say is I had discovered a new way for my mom and me to communicate. She had been the wife of a United Methodist minister. “Amazing Grace” was one of those hymns near and dear to her heart.

Another thing I remember about those Sunday morning chapel services, no resident ever became agitated. The music and singing seemed to bring a peaceful calm to each person present.

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