CARMEL, Ind- According to the Alzheimer's Association, nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's and more than 16 million Americans are providing unpaid, loving care. It’s a journey that many people face, and some face alone.
However, music has the power to bring people together. It helps connect us to each other, and also ourselves. A program in Carmel called "Song Shape" uses song to help Alzheimer's and Dementia patients share their stories. For 8 weeks, the group is rehearsing, preparing for a choir performance on November 10.
"We're seeing this gift of music reconnect people to their stories, to who they are," said Director Rick Cobb.
Everyone involved in the chorus is affected by Dementia or Alzheimer's. Either as a patient or a caregiver.
"It's been a journey," said Dave Buelt.
A journey that began at senior prom with his high school sweetheart Shannon. From there the journey led to 44 years of marriage, and a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
"Shannon knows exactly what she wants to say, but getting the right words out and having them come out is a bit of a challenge for her,” Buelt said of his wife's diagnosis.
However, they've noticed the impact music has. Especially as a social activity with other couples in the same situation.
"The moment that we all sat down, it became obvious that this is something for us to do,” Shannon said.
For Cobb, music has been apart of his life for as long as he can remember. He noticed even as memory fades for patients with dementia and Alzheimers, music is still a part of theirs.
"Through music, there are no limitations," Cobb said. "It's almost like music defies dementia..”
The 8-week program is called "Sing Your Story." Each person suggested a song from their past, from the Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra to Elvis and Hank Williams.
"Music memory is one of the last parts in the brain that is affected by Alzheimer's and dementia,” Cobb said. "It's been a gift for the care partners as well to be with other like-minded individuals who are in the same season of life who are trying to navigate this journey of dementia and Alzheimer's.”
"You really aren't aware of how many other people share the same struggles, the same journey that you think you’re so alone on,” said caregiver Cindy Duncan.
As the memories fade and the right words become harder to find, music will always be there. Along with those we love because the journey is one that no one should travel alone.
"Music is a vehicle that teaches people how to be together," Cobb said. "They come together as individuals, but they’re giving themselves something greater than they are, which is music.”
The song shape chorus will be performing all their songs coming up at their performance on November 10 at 2:30 pm. it will take place at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. The show is free to attend.
For more information on Song Shape, click HERE. Cobb said he plans to have another chorus in the spring.