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February 2017

ALZHEIMER'S, CLOWNS & MUSIC - Bringing Joy to the Homebound

  Gitchie 2

A few weeks ago, my friend Peggy visited from New York. We spent some time talking about her 91-year old mom who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago. As her mom's world continues to get smaller and smaller because she goes out less and less, Peggy finds ways to bring joy and laughter directly to her mom. And some of her ideas are so great that I wanted to share them here for all of us who are facing the Baby Boomer dilemma of caring for aging parents.

Peggy's mom had been a schoolteacher and was always very creative and fun loving. Naturally, she raised a daughter who is also very creative and fun loving. I call her the CFO - Chief Fun Officer - as she continues to find ways to bring light into her mother's life. For example, she bought her mom a Pancho the Talking Parrot from Publisher’s Clearinghouse that repeats whatever is said. Her mom LOVED having the company! In fact she loved it so much that Peggy found a talking dog and talking bear too! One day, when she arrived at her mom's house, her Mom had put the animals in a circle...and ALL of the animals were talking to each other!

Speaking of animals, there was a recent article in the New York Times about "therapy cats" (mechanical cats that purr and move) helping many dementia patients feel joy again. I recommended the mechanical cats to another daughter of an Alzheimer's patient who RAVED about how it made her mother smile for the first time in a very long time! Petting something furry works wonders. Just ask any Golden Retriever...

Peggy finds ways to continually provide stimulation, amusement, nourishment and love every chance she gets. Recently, she invited some friends and neighbors over and hired a clown to entertain them, make balloon animals and spend some time being silly. And a good time was had by all, including the clown. Another activity involved puppet making with family and friends who happily posed for pictures with their owl and puppy puppets. Yes, that's Peggy's mom with the whole menagerie in front of her.

And let's not forget about the soothing power of music. One day last month, Peg hired a string quartet to play an afternoon concert in the living room, and has booked a Spring concert with singer-songwriter Maria LoBalbo. During our visit, she shared with me that one of the things that helps when she has to drive her mom to appointments is listening to my music in the car.  Of course, that made me very, very happy! I asked her which songs her mom likes the best which led to a few delightful hours going through my four albums selecting the songs her mom's favs. Not surprisingly, they were the songs with an upbeat tempo, repetitive lyrics, uplifting messages and easy-to-sing melodies. There were 21 songs in all, adding up to more than an hour of music.

Below is the list of songs with the name of album in parentheses for use with Alzheimer's and dementia patients...and those who care for them. (Yes, this means you.) All of the songs are available for download on iTunes and CD Baby.  (If you prefer CDs, you can purchase the complete set at CD Baby. Or if you only want the Playlist of these 21 songs, send me a message and I'll burn a CD for you for $9.99)

Thank you (and Peggy) for letting me be a part of your journey…

THE PLAYLIST
1.  Take Me Home (Soul Feathers)
2.  Rare Rainy Day (Soul Feathers)
3.  May I (Soul Feathers)
4.  Welcome Home (Soul Feathers)
5.  I Feel Your Grace (Soul Feathers)
6.  Forgiveness (Soul Feathers)
7.  Breathe Deep (Soul Feathers)
8.  Can You Hear Me, Butterfly? (Transitions - Music to Soothe the Soul)
9.  Love (Transitions - Music to Soothe the Soul)
10. Dance With Me, Spirit (Transitions - Music to Soothe the Soul)
11. Ba Ba Black Sheep (Single)
12. Well Being Abounds (Music In My Soul)
13. Easier Road* (Music In My Soul)
14. Our Song (Music In My Soul)
15. Heavenly Union (Music In My Soul)
16. It’s About Joy* (Music In My Soul)
17. My Nature (Reach Up)
18. Breathe (Reach Up)
19. Love Is Light (Reach Up)
20. Ancestors & Angels (Reach Up)
21. Flow (Reach Up)

*All songs by Sandi Kimmel except Easier Road and It's About Joy, co-written with Maria LoBalbo