Woman Living with Dementia Remembers Music, Dancing

YORK, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) When memories slip away because of dementia, some research has shown that musical memory is one of the last to go. Which is why if you want to party at Carolina Gardens Senior Living in York, you need to find Ms. Shirley Smith.

“I don’t like to dance, I love to dance,” says Ms. Shirley, who’s been dancing her entire life.  She has many favorites, but George Jones tops the list.  She remembers songs and dance moves, even as she forgets a lot of other things.

“Right now it’s diagnosed as dementia,” says her son James Neal, also known as Shotgun.  Neal or one of his two brothers visit Ms. Shirley everyday.  She has been living with dementia for years.  There are days she can’t remember loved ones, which can be especially hard.

“It kind of hurts, but the songs, she can actually remember the words to the songs sometimes better than she can remember her sister’s name,” said Neal.

Dr. Romin Shah is a geriatric care specialist.  He says music is often used as therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s.

“That’s one of the big things we use to help treat a lot of the behaviors and agitations is music therapy,” said Dr. Shah.

Music is also a source of comfort at Carolina Gardens of York.

“They only have 8 or 10 words that they are able to speak but, if you put on their favorite song, they can sing along to every word,” says Michelle Curnow with Carolina Gardens of York.

Which is likely why Ms. Shirley waits for her sons to come by so they can dance. It lets them forget about forgetting, and dance the afternoon away.