A Song for Dementia

My father passed away a little more than a year and a half ago. I’m not sure what got him in the end, other than the inevitable unraveling of his mortal coil. He did however suffer from a form of dementia toward the end. If you’ve never encountered someone with dementia, it’s nearly impossible to understand what’s happening. You can read all you want, and know what is logically happening, but understanding it is a wholly different beast.

One of the things I’ve noted in a lot the information and research that we have available to us, is people with dementia often like and remember music well past their ability to make short term memories has failed. They may have differing short and long term memory issues. They may have mobility issues, that are actually helped by a rhythmic tapping to help them move again, etc. My father had problems walking due to Parkinson’s as well. As long as he could get going, he’d be able to walk with me for a mile or two. I’d tap a beat, until his legs would get moving. If we kept that beat and I tapped it he could walk until he tired out.

The form of dementia that my father had was not the kind of dementia that we had thought ran in our family. I am worried that my fiancee and/or I may some day develop dementia and forget each other. I don’t dwell on it by any means, but I’m not about to shut my eyes to that possibility. The future is inevitable, and I can’t predict it any better than anyone else can. What I have learned is that the more I’m ready for and open to opportunities that come up, the more successful I’ll be and happier I am. Being stuck in a situation where I don’t have a choice is awful. Having all of the choices in the world is confusing.

I probably can’t do anything about dementia and the loss of general memories. I, however, do take a few vitamins and supplements and eat what are considered to brain “healthy” foods. I also read up on studies that come out on a regular basis. I like to be informed about things and would consider myself to be interested in and fascinated by the world around me.

On To The Music

I have been playing instruments since I was child, and started taking piano lessons at the age of 5. I now play what I consider to be a pointless amount of different instruments. Sometime in my life I started to identify as a musician. It’s a hobby right now. I don’t play nearly enough, but I do have enough skill to be able to sit down, write and record a song in a few hours. I hated my parents for making me sit in front of the piano and take lessons, much like most children. There were many days in my childhood that I slept at the piano because I wasn’t allowed to do anything until I finished practicing. Being the bratty child that many small humans are capable of being, I challenged authority for the sake of, “I don’t wanna”.

My fiancee is also an amazing singer. I mean, utterly, utterly amazing. She’s one of those people that when they open their mouths and start singing, your jaw drops and you wonder what just happened. You can’t believe that amount of talent just came out of the being next to you. It’s mind boggling. Really. I’m sure she won’t like me saying this in a public forum, but I can rib her that I outed her. She’s a huge ham, so if you know either of us you’ve probably heard her sing before at a karaoke bar somewhere.

Continuing on, many couples have “their song”. Sara and I sing to each other continually. I would venture to say that the sweetness of our daily interactions would make most people vomit. We sing and dance almost everywhere we go. It’s completely ridiculous and we love it.

In an endeavor to look out for our future mental health I had the idea of writing and recording a song together. There is plenty of evidence that shows music will trigger memories of those with dementia. One or both of us may forget each other if we get dementia. What if we had a song that we could write, sing, and became such a part of us that it would help us see through the haze of a failing mind just for a second to remember. To remember who we are together. It’s easy to forget that the person you knew is still in front of you. They may not be the same person. They may not recognize you.

Who knows what the future will bring. It may not even come up, and let’s hope it doesn’t. Going through dementia isn’t pleasing for anyone or their loved ones. It feels like you’re being robbed of a loved one, or of your own life. But… what if you had a way to ensure that spark was still there. Wouldn’t it be worth it to find out? So, we’re going to write a song. Nobody but the two of us may ever hear this song. We may put it out to the world. It will be our song. We will memorize and make it such a part of us that maybe, just maybe it will transcend illness and bring back who we are for a moment.

I have yet to talk to a mental health professional to see whether or not this is a good idea, or a bad idea. I’ll end up talking to a friend about it sooner or later and maybe we won’t do it. If we do end up writing and recording a song together, we may end up starting a small business doing this for other couples as well.

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