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The Power of Music

Submitted by Deborah Vassar

As a nurse of 45 years, I have cared for many as they end their journey here on earth. One of my favorite stories is about a patient with end stage dementia. She was a total care patient and non-verbal. She would often sit in her chair, her head hung low. She never responded, even to her name. Her devoted sister would come every few days to visit, feed her, hold her hand, and talk to her. The sister never received any kind of acknowledgement in return.

On one of these days, I struck up a conversation and asked her to tell me about her sister. She smiled and said, “Oh, how she loved to rollerskate!” I asked if there was any kind of music she liked. She smiled and said, “The Bee Gees.”

I had witnessed many times in the past how music had affected many of my patients. I decided to bring in a Bee Gee CD the following day. As I sat next to my patient playing her familiar music, I hoped there would be some type of recognition. Unfortunately her sister was not visiting that day to see what had occured. When I hit the play button and the Bee Gees started playing, she raised her head very slowly, and a smile came to her face. Then she started moving her shoulders and snapping her fingers. She was dancing in her chair!

I called my nurses aides into the room to witness the event. We were ecstatic. I could not wait for her sister to visit so I could tell her about it! The following day her sister came. As she sat next to her, I put on the music, and exactly what had happened the day before had again occurred again! Oh, how her sister cried as she reminisced. Every visit thereafter included music. My patient passed away several months later. Her sister came to me and thanked me for giving her back her sister even if it was just for a few months. I have used music frequently in my career and have seen the calming effect it has had on so many. The power of music is amazing.

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