What if you don’t sing?

There is a growing amount of evidence that music is able to revive hidden memories hidden deep inside your loved one’s brain.  But, suppose neither you nor your loved one was ever really a ‘music person’? Is it still possible to activate those missing memories?  I was having this very conversation with a friend of mine whose father had dementia.

When I mentioned the benefit of singing, his face fell and he said sadly, “I don’t ever remember my father singing. Music wasn’t part of our families’ culture.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I responded

Suddenly his face brightened, “But there is one thing –when my Dad was young, he won an ice cream eating contest. While I was growing up, our family ate a lot of ice cream. It was a bid deal for us to go to the ice cream parlor and hear my Dad tell us about the time he won that contest.”

“That’s fabulous,” I said.

“Ice cream may be his version of singing,” he continues, “The first thing he asks me when I visit him at the care home, is will I take him home. It was breaking my heart until one day I had an idea. I’d say ‘sure, let’s go get in the car.’ I drove down to the ice cream parlor and we would sit and eat ice cream and talk about the time he had won the trophy for eating ice cream. After we were finished, we would get back in the car and I would drive him back to the care home. When I pulled up into the driveway of the care home, he always smiles and says, ‘It’s good to be home.’”

So, it turns out that not only is singing a wonderful trigger for awakening memories that are hard to rouse, but other activities that hold a significance to your loved one can also awaken dormant memories.

For example, nature trips of all types can be fun. Especially places that have certain smells associated with them. If your loved one was raised on a farm, an excursion to a ranch to watch horses or cows might trigger pleasant memories. If not a farm, then perhaps a visit to a petting zoo for a bit of up-close time around animals could provide stimulation of both touch and smell.  Or, venture out downtown to a park bench to feed pigeons. If there is a park that includes a duck pond, perhaps feeding ducks will invoke hidden memories.

Keep in mind, though, trips can be tiring and over-stimulation can thwart the benefits of the outing, so keeping it short and go at times when there is less likely to be crowded.

What other ideas can you think of? What has worked for you?

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