Music unlocks many emotions

Day by day
Music unlocks many emotions
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews.com
Tuesday October 7, 2014

When I was invited to a hymn sing at an assisted living home, I asked, “What hymns are you singing?” and was thrilled with the answer.

The list included what I call old, familiar songs such as Amazing Grace, When We All Get to Heaven, Love Lifted Me and a childhood favorite, This Little Light of Mine.

I was also glad I would be sitting with the residents and not leading the singing. My singing voice went south in my mid-40s when I was almost deaf, a condition that happened gradually since childhood.

Music and singing was my fervent hobby, and I often led singing at such places while playing my guitar. I had missed it and realized this particular day that, in part, I had been missing the contact with people who love visitors and music.

After two successful cochlear implants, I had hoped for restoration of my ability to grasp music, but it didn’t quite happen as I hoped.

I can understand most vocalists’ words — if they actually enunciate and sing, not what appears to be screaming into a microphone — but new music melodies are like a foreign language and quite flat.

Am I sad about that? At first I was, but my restored ability to understand speech and sounds with clarity superseded any sadness. Going from deaf to understanding about 95 percent is nothing to sniff at and I’m thankful beyond measure.

Back to music.

To my joy, 40-plus years of music are stored in my brain, and heart I believe, as music memory. If I see the words and get the first note of a song, or have the music to read, I get it and can sing.

My voice is no longer one for performing but I don’t mind singing at home or in groups. When my grandchildren were small, nothing stopped me from singing to them as I know I was sung to by my mother and grandmothers.

I can still hear the beat so my foot taps, hands clap and my soul is soothed.

Remember the show Name That Tune? Often I knew the tunes in two to five notes. So you can understand my music memory is full of good songs such as hymns, music from the 1930s (thanks to my parents) through the early 1990s that includes folk songs, show tunes, camp songs, pop, big band, songs I composed and more.
It’s a true blessing and I’m glad my brain has a lot of good information stored for easy access when needed. I don’t even need to select an app to get at it. I only need to think of a song or hear a familiar tune.

After my recent column on memory, a reader, Dana, told me about a movie that was, at the time, showing at the Drexel Theatre called, Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory .

To my chagrin, I didn’t move fast enough to attend and it has moved on to another city. Looking on the website, musicandmemory.org, I learned that music has proven to reach people with Alzheimer’s.

Not a surprise. Many memories are locked inside all of us and we need something to turn the key. In the case of music, it often unlocks memories and emotions for me.

When at the hymn sing, a woman in her 90s held up her forefinger and waved it back and forth when we sang This Little Light of Mine. I joined her in the motion and smiled remembering doing that as a child and when I taught my children the song.

Music can bring tears to my eyes from the message or a melancholy memory often marking the passing of time in my life.

After my first implant, my audiologist told me about HOPE Notes. According to the program’s website, http://hope.cochlearamericas.com/listening-tools, it is a “program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional folk, blues and country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways.”

Using both visual and auditory cues, it reminded me of how I heard music, and it improved my ability to enjoy it more.

The man who developed the program is a musician with cochlear implants. So often, adversity brings a gift and he shared his gift with others in a similar situation.

Next time you sway to a familiar tune, “count your blessings, name them one by one …”

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Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia

Day by day
Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia
by Liz Thompson
Wednesday August 20, 2014
Thisweeknews.com

Where did I put my glasses? Why did I come into the kitchen?

Memory loss of any degree is worrisome. It can be a precursor to serious problems. I say my brain is a closet packed full of life’s “stuff” and I have to sort through to find what I want. I’m not alone.

Linda, 62, of Westerville recently retired from a fast-paced job and is learning to relax.

“I’ve decided it’s OK to forget the small things and just remember the most important, like picking up that grandchild or going to a doctor appointment. Forgive yourself for not remembering and enjoy what time we have left in this world,” Linda said.

Don, 71, of Columbus said, “Although I have had dementia in my family, I really don’t obsess about it. It’s one of those things over which we have little control.

“I was talking with a friend about the Hitchcock film North by Northwest,” Don said. “While we both agreed it was a classic, neither of us could remember the star who we were later told was Cary Grant. The friend who I was talking with is 66.”

“Bob,” 75, of Columbus, helps Habitat for Humanity build houses.

“I ride my bicycle whenever I can,” said Bob, who asked that his real name not be used.

When he’s not physically active, he is writing about his life. Both he and Don use calendars to track their activities but when busy, they sometimes forget things.

Bob has seen fellow scientists, family and friends struggle with dementia. Some made good choices when they recognized the onset of symptoms, while others chose to ignore them and eventually had to rely solely on others.

“My fear is that as I get older and need to have other people do things for me, I’ll accept some bogus, money-up-front offer. My question is how I will recognize that the time has come for me to turn such decisions over to one of my children,” Bob said.

According to the American Psychological Association, some memory loss is normal with aging, and some types of memory improve or stay the same. They urge people to watch for signs because physical conditions can affect the memory. These include anxiety, dehydration, depression, infections, medication, poor nutrition, psychological stress, substance abuse and thyroid problems.

Barb, 63, of Powell is proof. Multiple sclerosis affects her memory to the point where, at times, she may not know the names of family members. Yet she challenges herself physically by doing long fundraising bike rides.

Mari Dannhauer, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said dementia is a cornucopia of symptoms, not a diagnosis.

“If you get a diagnosis of dementia, ask what type it is. Ask lots of questions,” Dannhauer said. “Dementia causes short-term memory loss and confusion. Sometimes it is reversible and sometimes it is not. Alzheimer’s is the most common irreversible form of dementia.”

She urges people to see their doctor when they notice recurring problems and when others start to notice.

Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging, said the upcoming Memory and Brain Health Symposium was developed in direct response to a survey at an event sponsored by the Upper Arlington Civic Association.

“The survey asked many questions about the subjects seniors want to know more about. Overwhelmingly, two-thirds of all responses indicated that memory and brain health are a top priority,” Schossler said.

The symposium features Dr. Douglas Scharre, a cognitive neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Dr. Marla Bruns, a cognitive neurologist with Ohio Health; and Dr. Akhlaq Farooqui, a retired neurochemist.

Topics include brain health, diagnosis and treatment of dementia, and research associated with the disease. Scharre will discuss the Self-Administered Geocognitive Examination (SAGE) and have copies available for people to take; staff will be available to review and discuss the results.

The Memory and Brain Health Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road.

Registration is required by calling 614-583-5326. Seating is limited to 150 people. Free lunch and a senior expo of community organizations and businesses are included.

The majority of us will learn to live with minor memory issues and even learn to laugh about it — especially since we have company.

Now where are my keys?