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'It's just priceless': Cincinnati nonprofit uses music to help people with dementia connect, remember

Giving Voice Foundation
Posted at 10:48 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 22:48:21-04

CINCINNATI — Dementia robs people of their memories, and often takes a toll on their caregivers. So when those living with memory loss can remember something and find joy, it's a win for everyone involved.

That's why Giving Voice Foundation, a grassroots organization in Cincinnati, is trying to help people living with dementia or Alzheimer's remember — even if just for a little bit.

Lea Ann Patrick cares for her 91-year-old mother, Lois. Like many people with Alzheimer's, Lois cannot remember much of what happens day-to-day. But she remembers what she learned long ago.

"Our childhood memories stay strong ... things like songs that we've heard in church or synagogue or things that we heard in the preschool classroom like 'You Are My Sunshine,'" said Kristin Cooley, the foundation's program director.

So when a musician plays that song, Lois remembers the music and comes alive.

"To hear mom engage again. and to be able to be herself — even in that moment, when she used to sing in the choir and I used to sing with her — it's just priceless," Patrick said.

In Giving Voice Foundation's "Creative Connections" program, Lois and others sing, do a little exercise and have fun. Cooley said some participants are almost completely nonverbal, but when the music comes on, they start singing their favorite songs.

While they remember, their caregivers meet together.

"The Alzheimer's journey can be very mentally and physically exhausting, and it can be lonely," said Mike McGreevy, who cares for his wife.

McGreevy said talking to other caregivers has helped him learn it's OK to need time away.

"It's upbeat," McGreevy said. "We visit with each other, we talk about our issues. It just helps tremendously."

In addition to the free time, Patrick said the group helps her feel less alone and shows her how to manage situations that she might not have come across yet. She called it a "godsend" for her family.

"You're just wonderful, mom," Patrick said. "Just very social, happy. And this gives us an opportunity to experience that again."

"She talks a lot," Lois said, cutting off her daughter.

Giving Voice provides these classes for free, with a suggested donation of $1. The nonprofit keeps all of its dollars and programming locally.

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