I guess it depends on the mood we are in. There is no doubt about the calming effect of music – well, it does depend upon which type of music! Today, I sat with Dorothy as she clapped and swayed in time to the beat of lots of happy songs and tunes of yesteryear. The care home had brought in a man with his portable electronic organ, so small yet a full rich, almost orchestral sound. Such modern keyboards are so small and versatile, quite fabulous, and the player used the instrument to enhance the music really well, almost orchestral. Soon, we were all, a dozen or so of us, mumbling, singing, or humming along! I think the live music is more captivating and infectious than the Andre Rieu on the TV we often have in the lounge room.
But, if you are feeling a bit off-colour, sometimes not even music helps. And some types of music can even be a definite turn-off at any time! Dorothy is just plain not interested sometimes; but this afternoon she was really focussed and enjoying the experience, and that meant I did, too. Surprised and delighted that she responded so well, especially since only four days ago she was in the local hospital emergency ward! That was because last week she developed a ‘cold’, and by Sunday she was coughing so badly that she was sent off to hospital. That meant I was by her side there for about twelve hours until it was deemed appropriate to return her to the care home. Apparently, she had a form of pneumonia, a tendency caused by a weakness in her lungs, a carryover from her long pneumonia bout in China two years ago. But she is made of tough stuff and seems to have shrugged it off, and now has just an occasional splutter. Today she was in fine form, enjoying the live music, as we sat together in the care home lounge. I know most of the other residents also enjoyed the mini-concert, as they nodded and hummed and used their arms to sway with the beat. Me too, as I encouraged the others to join in, trying to help to create a ‘happy moment’ for us all.
Dorothy’s form of Alzheimer’s is, what I consider to be, quite advanced. She is unable to have any coherent conversation – except that she will normally acknowledge requests like “Come for a walk with me”, or “Let’s change your shoes, first”. Two-way conversation is difficult; she doesn’t respond to talk of current family and now barely even talks of her parents. I’ve tried photos as a memory jogger, but that doesn’t work, either. I have now, finally, accepted that she doesn’t always know me – after sixty-one years of marriage! On some days, she can be quite cantankerous and uncooperative and it’s at those times that I really feel for the dedicated staff at the care home. Such staff are the focus of the current government ‘Enquiries” and it’s undoubtedly true that there are many untrained and poorly motivated people in the industry, perhaps even some where Dorothy is. But they are all undergoing in-house training, and the vast majority are doing great work – work that I couldn’t cope with over more than an hour or so. I am so lucky to have my Dorothy where she is, despite the high cost!
So, when she leans over, nuzzles me and says, “I love you, Bill”, I nearly explode with returned love. That’s what I call ‘music to my ears’!