Memories are profoundly linked to music. We know this because we remember what was going on when a particular song was popular. We associate songs with our first love, our first break up so it’s not surprising that music can reach someone locked in a dying brain.
Even for people with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. As their short term memory fails, long term memories can be well preserved, but accessing them can be difficult.
Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger the memory of lyrics and the music’s experience. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.
So how do we go about finding the right songs, the songs that do the connecting? As those of you who are regular listeners know, I’ve tried playing songs from the Moms era and had no luck. Assuming that you can choose from pieces that are popular from their generation is hit or miss. That’s what I learned. A past guest said it would take some trial and error to find a handful of songs she connects too. While that sounds like a lot of work, technology does make it a little easier.
Here’s how I put together my Music 4 Mom playlist.
I remember songs from my childhood that my maternal Grandmother played. If Moms mom liked these songs, and I liked these songs, chances are Mom will too. Dear hubby knew of 1 music that Mom had talked about in the past, so that’s where I started.
I went into iTunes (but I’m sure this works the same with Spotify) and selected browse. I typed in what I remembered, and any song that moved me to remember the words got added to the playlist. Now, technology is our friend in this process. iTunes (and again, I’m sure Spotify does this) makes suggestions for other artists, albums, and songs. Once I clicked around on some of the recommendations, I came up with more possible songs.
There ended up being a pattern to the style of songs I was selected, so I then turned to iTunes’ radio portion and picked the station playing the songs from the 60s. Now, Apple, you need one from the 50s too, but I made this work. I found five more potential songs by listening to the 60s station. I selected those based on the style of the songs I recalled joyfully.
What I Ended Up With
Moms personalized playlist has 18 songs totaling 45 minutes of music. I’m going to test these songs out and see how well my musical detective skills worked. Many of them are upbeat, so I’m hoping we can get a little hip wiggling action going on. My goal is to give her a lovely time and bring some joy into our visits.
Any song that doesn’t seem to connect, I’ll delete. Hopefully, most of them will, or else I’ll have to do a super deep dive looking for more music. I may have to ask her brother if he remembers what they listened to as teenagers.
Selecting the music was a fun process. I felt a bit silly singing and dancing around in my office to music that’s older than I am, but that’s what was happening. That’s why I think I was on the right track.
The best place for you to start is to ask. If your loved one has trouble communicating, you may need the help of another family member or friend to fill in the blanks.
Here are some questions to ask to the conversation started:
- What music did you listen to when you were young (in high school)?
- Did you sing at religious services? What were your favorites hymns or other sacred music?
- Did you enjoy going to Broadway shows or musicals? Which ones were your favorites?
- Do you have any records or tapes that were favorites? What are they? Where can I find them?
- Who was your favorite performer, group, band, or orchestra?
- Who was your favorite classical composer?
- Can you hum any of your favorites?
* What songs did you dance to at your wedding? High school prom?