Alzheimer's Foundation of America
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 5, 2005

Drummer Mickey Hart Touts the Power of Music for Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease

NEW YORK, NY—Rock and Roll Hall of Fame percussionist Mickey Hart remembered that his grandmother loved coming to his Grateful Dead concerts. So when his elderly grandmother was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease, Hart decided to play his drums for her. After around 15 minutes of serenading her, his grandmother, who had not spoken for more than six months, looked up at him and said, "Mickey."

Hart's recalled this experience in the spring 2005 issue of Vantage TM , a quarterly publication of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. The magazine is uniquely geared for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

Hart's personal family experience and subsequent research into drumming had convinced him that music therapy is a necessity for people with Alzheimer's disease.

"It is like the air they breathe…Rhythm connects with your being in the disconnect of Alzheimer's disease..It connects to something that makes you feel good, and it enhances lifestyle and quality of life," he wrote in the magazine's guest column.

In another article in the latest issue of Vantage TM , renowned music therapist Alicia Ann Clair, director of the Division of Music Education and Music Therapy at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, confirmed the increasing usage of music as a therapeutic tool for persons with dementia.

According to Clair, "music, especially rhythm playing and singing, can spark compelling outcomes even in the very late stages of Alzheimer's disease."

"When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements," she said in her article, "Tapping the Power of Music."

The magazine offers readers various tips on how to engage persons with dementia in music, based on skills still accessible at different stages of the disease process. For example, in the early stages, caregivers can encourage someone to sound the trumpet or tap piano keys again; in the middle stages; they can play music or sing as the individual is walking to improve balance or gait; and in the late stages, they can do sing-alongs of tunes sung by rote in that person's generation.

The latest issue of Vantage TM also looks at the positive effects of physical and mental exercise on memory function; new brain imaging techniques that may enable doctors to diagnose Alzheimer's disease earlier on; and how to reduce strife among family members in the face of this brain disorder.

AFA introduced Vantage TM in August to specifically explore medical, behavioral and practical issues from the vantage point of dementia caregivers. For a free subscription, visit www.afa-vantage.com or call 866-AFA-8484.

AFA is a national nonprofit organization focused on "together for care...in addition to cure" for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families. Its services include a toll-free hotline, counseling by certified social workers, educational materials and conferences, referrals to local resources nationwide, and professional training . For more information, visit www.alzfdn.org or visit 866-AFA-8484.

Note: For permission to reprint articles appearing in Vantage™ , contact HMP Communications, Malvern, PA. Authors are available for interviews.

Contact: Carol Steinberg
Phone: 1-866-AFA-8484