Music flowed from Marian like a waterfall. She sang all day, every day. The people around her couldn't stand it.
To the nurses and to the other residents of the unit, Marian's singing sounded like shouting, a frequent reality among people who have Alzheimer's-type dementia. When I went to pick her up for our first music therapy session together, I had been given some idea of what to expect, but I didn't anticipate the nastiness. Half a dozen older women sat in wheelchairs lined up in front of the nurse's station. Marian, on the far left, was belting at full volume. One of the others shouted back, "Shut up!"
I'm sure the nurses were hoping I'd return Marian in a calmer state. Traditionally, the goal of music therapy for people with dementia is to reduce agitation. But I soon realized my job wasn't to stop the shouting — just the opposite. Music offered unique access to Marian's self, long after disease had dismantled... (READ MORE)