Sunday, November 16, 2008

Potter's Ground

Welcome back to Potter's Ground

Today, I bring you two stories that demonstrate the power of music.

First story:

When I was a nursing assistant in a nursing home, I would assist elderly folks that couldn't do a lot of things for themselves because of dementia. This included feeding them, helping with 'personal cares' and such.

One night, I was working with an 97 y.o. patient, who spend most of his day sleeping upright in his recliner. He rarely, if ever, said anything. Even to his wife, who sat in a recliner next to him during the day. Sitting in the recliner all day was his choice, which we supported.

As I was readying him for bed, I taught him to sing, "Everybody was kung fu fighting". He struggled with the words "kung fu".

"Everybody was kung few fighting", He would say.

"No no, Bill, it is Kung FOO", I'd answer.

It was like Marco-Polo for about 30 minutes. Each time, I would crack up at his mispronunciation. He would laugh in response to my laughing, and we laughed at the sillyness at all.

"What the HELL is kung few?" He finally asked.

"Oh, Bill, KUNG FOO, it's like boxing" said me.

"Oooo, kung foo!", laughing as he sounded it out.

All told, it took about 45 minutes for him to learn the verse "Everybody was kung fu fighting/those cats were fast as lightening", the same amount of time it took me to ready him for bed. When he finally could sing it, we sang it together and it was AWESOME!

We both laughed so hard!

Second story:

When I worked as a Registered Nurse in another nursing home, I would change a dressing on a elderly woman's hip from a skin graft procedure she had done. This was tough because she was in the later stages of dementia, so she didn't know what was really going on and couldn't really be talked through it. Also, she was mostly blind because of cataracts.

Any who, the donor site was about the size of a deck of cards. It really, really hurt these dressing changes. We would give her narcotics before hand, but she still bellowed.

But, here is the thing about dementia patients, they have endless intact memory for songs. They may not recognize their daughter, or pictures of their house, but they still remember Christmas songs and other songs from their childhood.

So, while I was doing this incredibly painful dressing change, I would have her teach me Norwegian folk songs. And in turn I taught her this:

"The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head down and cried"

What is the next verse?
Guess and/or personally relate the song. Points awarded accordingly.

And BTW-she never once yelled during the times I did her dressing change. Music has power beyond any medication I could offer.

8 Left a message at the beep:

B.E. Earl said...

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy, when skies are greay.
You'll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Did you know that it was co-written and recorded by a guy who eventually became governor of Louisiana? I know that because of the movie "Primary Colors", which is something I think of whenever I hear that song. That or "O Brother, Where Art Thou" which used it also. It's all about the movies with me.

GeologyJoe said...

How nice is that?!

Your association of music and dementia is astute. Have there been any studies exploring this? Maybe it could unlock something profound.

HollyHall: Noble Prize Winner.

Holly Hall said...


Again, you get the first ten points! I have not seen the movie primary colors. Is it good?

But, the movie I got it from was O brother-which I really love. The Coen brothers are certifiable geniuses.


I am not sure if there has been actual studies about music and dementia but... There is NO disagreement within the health care community that activities and music can help slow the progress of dementia and enhance quality of life.

I am sure you have heard of the phrase, "use it or lose it". That is the basic operating principle.

Interesting though, the long term memory(meaning things we have known the longest-like christmas songs) are usually the last parts of the memory to go.

The short term memory, meaning things we learned minutes, days or recent months ago is usually the first ytpe of memory to go.

This is why music is so important. It also connects in ways that mere words can't.


So-can't take credit for this connection. It is well known. Choosing to put it into practice the important thing!



Michelle J said...

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

Just makes me feel good is all!!! Sometimes, i sing or hum that song as i am running! I do not know why really. Perhaps, it helps me keep a constant pace. Plus, as the sun is coming up, i think it is perfect!!! Just perfect!!!

Nurse Practitioners Save Lives said...

I've noticed that about a lot of my confused patients when I worked in the hospital. That's also why I try to have people bring in a radio for patients who are no longer apparently conscious. They say that hearing is the last to go.

Slyde said...

dammit! others got it before me.

you should DEFINITELY SEE primary colors. it is an outstanding movie. possibly travoltas best role...

Holly Hall said...

Michelle: It is indeed a good song! And such a lovely comment, you get ten points, go runners!

Slyde: Hmm, will put it into the cue!



Michelle J said...

YAY for 10 points!!!

So, what shall i do? Keep my own score?? :O)

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