Subtle Signs in End Stages of Alzheimer’s disease through Music Therapy

Subtle Signs in End Stages of Alzheimer’s disease through Music Therapy –

brings a smile to a daughter searching for ways to connect.

By Lori La Bey of Senior Lifestyle Trends

Today I met a new friend of mine Melissa Hirokawa, who owns Living Spirit Therapy at my Mother’s nursing home.  Melissa is Music Therapist and offered to come out and show me some of what she does with her clients.  Melissa is amazing.  I have had musician’s play for my Mother and engage her in music which she loves, but what a true Music Therapist offers so much more than just interaction with music.  Music therapy has the ability to change behaviors.  Here is a snipit from Melissa’s website: 

I highly encourage you to go check out her website at:  Htpp://

As I watched Melissa interact with my Mother I amazed by her patients and her bag of tricks.  She played the guitar and sang to Mom and with Mom.  She had bells that strap onto wrists, egg sized rattles that fit nicely in the palm of a hand, finger shakers, and big hand held rattles… and more, all of which got my Mother’s attention.  I must admit though my favorite hands down was the two person harp.  The sound was incredible and the vibration it gave off as it sat on my Mother’s lap was peaceful and energizing.   It was fun to watch Mom open her eyes, sing a few words, and move her arms, hands, and feet to the beat of the music.  Even though her response was not as animated as in the past, she was still connecting to the music and Melissa.

Now I do have to say, we got together at a time of day when Mom is usually tired, after super.  Given the time of day Mom’s reactions were very limited, but she is also failing more and so I wasn’t sure just what to expect from her.  You see when I visit her these days she only lasts about 10-20 minutes before falling asleep again.  Melissa got her to last longer, even though Mom’s engagement was not as strong as prior times she still connected to Melissa and the music and that was such a gift for me to see. 

Melissa and I have decided to try another session with Mom at an earlier time of day in about a week and see how Mom does.  I will let you know how she does at that time.

Here are some pictures from our afternoon visit today.

9 Replies to “Subtle Signs in End Stages of Alzheimer’s disease through Music Therapy”

  1. Lori,

    Loved seeing the photos of your mother–especially her brightly painted fingernails.

  2. Hi Lori…This quote is from you – “Remember the reaction you got from your Mother when you told her you loved her. How she came out of her cocoon and expressed acknowledgement of you words and touch. I would imagine that memory will be hard to beat. Never release that feeling of joy you had. Your Mother knows you love her and want what is best for her, and that you have fought to make sure she is comfortable, safe, and pain free.”

    I have on several occasions gone back over those lovely words you wrote me during the hours we were waiting for my mom to pass on. Your words “released” any doubts or guilt that I may have felt, and I just wanted to take a moment just to say thank you.

    Just yesterday my elderly neighbor who is 96 or 97 (and a breast cancer survivor) – I put a copy of my mother’s obit in your mailbox. I only recently seen her last week and really don’t have the pleasure of seeing her much. She barely get around, but would always ask about my mom when she saw me. When I saw her last week for some reason…oh I remember, running late for work…she didn’t get a chance to ask about my mom and I didn’t have time to time her. As I mentioned earlier, I put a copy of my mom’s obit in her mailbox – so I guess she knows now. I will take the time to knock on her door this evening when I get home from work tonight. I’m afraid she will feel bad knowing my mom passed away all the back in January, but I am now able to just start talking about my mother to people without all the tears. I have my own private moments…but it has gotten so much better.

    Sorry for the rambling. I just wanted to say thanks to you Lori and you tell you how encouraging you have been to me throughout this journey.

    p.s. Thanks for the invite. Who knows…I may be in that part of town someday…lololol 🙂

    1. HI Michelle
      Thanks so much for writing. It’s was so nice of you to refresh my memory of my own words of guidance to you and others. Sometimes we need to hear them from someone else too! LOL

      I am so glad you are letting the neighbor know about your Mother. It will be an important step for both of you. In society today we run at such a high speed and we miss out enjoying life with one another. It’s times like these that make us realize life will slip right by us if we don’t change.

      You take care now and thank s for keeping in touch!

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