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The Healing Power of MUSIC!

Posted by frailin on Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Switzforge started this thread in the Discussion Forum, but I wanted to make a point of just how important music has been to my family. 

I've got GREAT news to report about the POWER of music!! 


This is my soon-to-be 90 year old mom.  She's in an Alzheimer's home in Cedar Rapids, IA.  Even got evacuated during the floods last month!  She's been there now for going on 5 years.

Mom played organ in the Methodist Church in Early, IA for 55 years.  My dad used to joke, "no one could get married or buried without checkin' her schedule."  It's true!  In a small midwestern farm town, churches and schools used to be the center of the universe. 

On the 7 point Global Deterioration Scale (GDS - what they use to evaluate folks with Alzheimers... I know, it's a TERRIBLE name), mom is a 5.9.  She knows little about things around her and now, can't always remember my name, although she knows I'm someone special. 

Dancing with Mom at DeAnne and my wedding last September. 

This picture is of the two of us in her room just last month. 


Where she used to be quite the talker, now conversations are more difficult... and, with her failing memory, very circular.  So I've started playing her more music to pass the time.  I'll pick up the banjo or fiddle and start in on some old familiar hymn melody like the Old Rugged Cross, What a Friend We Have in Jesus or In the Garden.  WITHOUT FAIL, inside of a few strains, Mom is humming along with the melody.  Occasionally, a word or two of the verse might pop out.  I can't really describe to you the joy I see on her face when she recalls something.  She knows she's in a fog most of the time, but give her a familiar refrain and out of the haze comes the shining brilliance and joy of music... and in this case, the positive message of hope and an eternal future. 

Mom and Banjo.

I can't say for sure music heals, but I can tell you it's as close to the soul of a human being as anything can be.  And in the case of my mom, even though you've lost your ability to remember or process, you can still draw on the power of Gospel music to soothe your soul. 

A friendly little dog helps, too.


25 comments on “The Healing Power of MUSIC!”

hammeron Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @8:47:42 AM

What a wonderful and moving piece Craig. Thank you for sharing.


Cottonmouth Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @8:51:04 AM

Craig, I feel your heartbeat for your mother. My dear mother-in-law is in the same situation, so we are sailing the same waters, as are so many folks these days. You are so right about the music and I have been fortunate to play in several assisted-living facilities, hospices, etc., for the last decade. My initial experience was at a hospice, where all of the residents were in wheel-chairs; some alert and some seemed to be asleep. I was so depressed when I got home after that visit and my wife explained that we don't know what they might be hearing. She was right, as in another situation, I noticed one lady who seemed to be asleep, was gently tapping her foot to the music. I pray that the music will touch their souls and bring them some measure of contentment. Thanks for sharing your mother with us. Ken

banjotef Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @9:14:39 AM

Thanks for the wonderful and inspiring story, Craig.  We are dealing with my own father and Alzheimer's now.     And yes,  music CAN touch and revive people with a degree of dementia.  I have the book Musicophelia,  and there are numerous cases that demonstrate this.   She is blessed to have a musical family. 

Kester71 Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @9:32:26 AM

Music is very dear to my heart.  It can touch your soul in a multidude of ways and take you to a multitude of places.  It can make people smile and people deserve to smile.  Thank you for sharing, Craig and God Bless!

kd5fyc Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @12:05:04 PM

Craig, what a beautiful lady your mother is.  Thank you for sharing this, I can feel the love you have for your Mom in the words and pictures your shared.  Reminds me of my Mom who I lost in 1999, although she is no longer here I know where she is.  

God Bless,


muntjac Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @12:40:05 PM

Hey Craig your pictures tell alot from the look in her eye your mom still enjoys music and pride in her son. You are both so lucky.

Enjoy life no matter what it throws at you love and music is all we need.

DandyRandy Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @1:17:00 PM

Thanks Craig.

banjosis Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @1:50:05 PM

thanks for sharing this very moving story. God is very very good.

Jane C Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @2:08:54 PM

She's beautiful Craig, and that only comes from within.

pauwac Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @4:24:28 PM

I lost my mom to complications from Alzheimer's three years ago.  She was very, very used to hearing old-time and Irish music played by her sons--she would joke about it all sounding the same, but she was also the first one to sit down and tap her feet to whatever my brothers and I were playing.  It's a sad thing to watch someone slip away and still be there,  but my mom's last years were made so much better by the devotion and loving care of my father and my sister.  Before my mom died she had a very clear and lucid day, where she talked with all her children and we got the chance to tell her what a great mother she was and how much we loved her.  Thanks for your post, Craig, because it gave me a chance to remember my own parent, and to reflect on how little we really know this side of the grave.

peepo552 Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @5:31:33 PM

After Rod had his stroke, I took a cd player into the hospital with his cd's of clawhammer banjo and he and our son Nick playing.  The nurses said that he would get upset when I wasnt' there, so they put his music on and he would settle down and sleep or just lay and listen.  I believe music is a wonderful thing.  It has the power to sooth or bring back good times.  God bless you and your Mom.  I know that she loves you and you love her.  Helen

banjomikey Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @7:11:06 PM

Thanks for sharing that Craig! You are such a special person man! You always seem to look at the brighter side of things, which is so rare in this crazy time that we live in. I really admire you my friend! I wish the best to you and your family.

zeeway Says:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 @7:38:01 PM

Looks like she is a sweet, beautiful lady.  You are lucky to have her for a Mom. Prayers for you both.

bob gregory Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @12:06:40 AM

G'day mate , thanks for sharing i work in aged care in Australia and your right music is very good for them it may take them back to better times and happier times with family and friends,so keep playing for your mum and the other residents .you can see how happy she is.


Debbielee Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @1:31:28 AM

Sweet pictures, Craig!  Thanks for taking the time to share.  Joe's mother has had Alzheimers now for about 10 years.  She is in the advance  stages.  You hear in the news almost everyday of new breakthroughs and promising new drugs.  I sure hope they can find an answer soon.  Seems they are getting closer.  It looks as if you are treasuring your moments with her, and by the looks of things she is doing the same with you. 

Dixie Chick Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @5:25:33 AM

Craig - thanks for sharing!! those pictures are great and inspiring too.

campbelldb Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @6:07:34 AM

My prayers and best wishes for your incredible Mother!

bluemusic4us Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @6:45:32 AM

Music truly does have healing powers. It is the universal language.
Thanks for sharing!

Yard Onion Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @7:42:59 AM

That is truly powerful.......thanks for posting .


vortex Says:
Thursday, July 24, 2008 @7:49:09 AM

Craig-Great story,great pictures and a great mom.Thank You for the welcome you sent me.

PaulKirby Says:
Friday, July 25, 2008 @5:51:01 AM

Hi! Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures.  The banjo has power. THE HARP OF FREEDOM!

TopCat Says:
Friday, July 25, 2008 @11:56:06 AM


You are so right. Music is one of the things that can cut through and give pure joy. I was thinking that at my local Sacred Harp sing last week. Thanks for the lovely pics and true words. TC 

Kole Says:
Saturday, July 26, 2008 @3:01:15 PM

Excellent little read. Thank you, Craig. I'm still wiping my eyes. Everything you said is so true.

gsdauria Says:
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 @8:47:51 PM

You are someone special.  Mothers, what can you say.  Its obvious you love her. God bless you, your new wife, and your mom.

Lisa Iskin Says:
Saturday, August 30, 2008 @6:59:13 AM

This touches my heart on many levels. May your time with your mom be filled with love of family, friends, and lots of music. It's obvious you are one fine person.

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