May 1, 2018

Music Brings Alzheimer's Patients Out of the Box

When Dotty started singing I realized that the Alzheimer's box is bigger then I ever thought or imagined.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

While Dotty and I were watching -- TREME on HBO (the show is set in post Katrina New Orleans), One of the main characters Antoine (Wendell Pierce) was walking down Bourbon street when he came up on characters Sonny (keyboard) and Annie (violin).

They were playing a song that I had never heard. Amazingly, my mom started singing along with him.

Antoine starts singing the song. As he does this on TV, Dotty starts singing along with him. I was so stunned I kinda short circuited. I asked Dotty, do you know that song? She said yes. I asked, do you know the name and she said no.

Later that night I decided to see if I could find the segment on YouTube. I did.

I brought Dotty over to the computer the next day and said listen to this. As Antoine started singing I said to Dotty -- sing it. She started singing -- "but I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you."

Second time around she sang in perfect tune and continued even after I clicked the stop button on YouTube -- "I love you oh so madly and I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you."

I asked her again do you know that song? She asked, was that Frank Sinatra? I did some research. A Ghost of a Chance was written in 1932. It was first sung and made famous by Billie Holiday. Later it was modernized and re-recorded by Frank Sinatra.

I am not sure if my sister Joanne knows this. Dotty sings in a much higher (not louder) voice then her conversation voice. She has a really sweet voice.

In this case and others, she sings right in tune with the music. There is no doubt in my mind that Dotty was singing the Billy Holiday version.
  • I continue to believe that many of the patients living with Alzheimer's are capable of more then most people can imagine. For me this is fascinating.
This belief helped me when I wanted to push the "envelop" with Dotty. I was convinced early on that there was "more" with my mother. I learned this little by little - the more I let her do, and the more I did things with her - the more she could do.

Over the years, I saw or read about someone with Alzheimer's disease that was doing "more" in one way or another. I just kept thinking in reference to Dotty -- there is more in there.
  • I'm lucky. I never saw my mother as a victim.
  • I never saw myself as a victim. Instead, I gradually became fascinated by Alzheimer's disease.
  • I became curious about what could be accomplished.

I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking it is a bed of roses here in Delray Beach. It is not.

On the other hand, every once in a while Dotty does something that is out of the Alzheimer's Box.

This lead me to think the same thing every time -- the Alzheimer's box is bigger then I ever thought or imagined.

Start singing and Get out of the box.

The Alzheimer's Caregiver Blame Game

Learn More from our in depth Topics Pages

How To Do It Alzheimer's Care

Care of Dementia Patients

The Connection Between UTI and Worsening Dementia

Did you know the Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published since July, 2009? The website is designed to help caregivers deal with the problems they face each day.

Need Help? Search Our Award Winning Knowledge Base for Answers to Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia


Alzheimer's Reading Room. Bob DeMarco May, 2018. Music Brings Alzheimer's Patients Out of the Box