Music sparks memories in Alzheimer's patients

HOUSTON – Patients, family members and the entire community are invited to Pathways Memory Care at 7 p.m. Thursday for a preview of the movie "Alive Inside."

The movie documents how people suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer's and dementia can still remember something they associate with songs.

Judy and John Buczkowski have been married for 50 years. Judy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's shortly after her retirement.

John dedicates his life to making sure Judy is not alone. He visits her several times a day and plays her music.
The music comforts her with familiarity, something Alzheimer's stole from them a long time ago.
"She remembers it. To what extent? I don't know," John said.

Pathways Memory Care director, Mary Sparks said the part of your brain that remembers music is unaffected by the disease and therefore they can keep patients engaged with songs.

"As the disease process is taking over, those neurons are firing but they're not receiving and the disease is getting worse and worse, that part of your brain is still intact," Sparks said. "There's two things that are not affected by dementia: music and our knowledge of God."

Judy's family helped the music and memory specialists to form a playlist of her favorite songs and when they got to "I Will Survive," it sparked a memory.

"I mean we remember that song but I'm not sure if she was running around the house singing it while I was at work or anything," John laughed, admitting he didn't know what she associated with that particular song but he recognizes the subtle change in her behavior when she hears it.

Through a smile, a look, a nod, John can tell Judy is alert. Whatever Judy is remembering helps John know she's still here.

"It will bring this smile to her face. She could be sleeping, dozing in a chair and when they put the earphones on her you can see that she's starting to light up and she's going to wake up and enjoy it," John said.

Click here to find out more about memory care at Pathways Memory Care at Villas Toscana: http://pathwaysmemorycare.com/memory-care/.