Senior residents coping with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease sharpen memories and keep mind and body active by singing familiar songs and playing musical games at Crown Cove in the Newport Beach community of Corona del Mar. Board-certified Music Therapist Vladana Zorjan-Stubb leads the music making. The activity is a key element in helping residents retain and maintain cognition.
‘Residents may not be able to put a sentence together but they can sing a song,’ said Catherine Pepys, director of journeys for Crown Cove. ‘Music stays with people long after other capabilities leave.’ She added that the person brought in to work with residents is not just an entertainer with a guitar, but that it takes a person with specific skills to successfully interact with the seniors and get them involved.
Vladana arrives with an array of hand-held shakers, drums and music makers, a stack of song sheets and her guitar. Anywhere from a dozen to 18 or more seniors collect in a bright sitting room to take advantage of the sessions which are structured to suit the make-up and special needs of the group.
Participants play a white board concentration game, matching well-known songs to their composers or to the artists who made the songs famous. In extensions of the game, residents are asked to fill-in missing song lyrics or name the Broadway musical that featured the tune. Vladana circulates through the room enlisting and assisting volunteer instrumentalists, evoking game responses and filling-in the gaps with pleasant patter. Looking to engage one gentleman she asks if he wants to trade-in one instrument for another. She talks with two women who are sharing a song sheet, asking if they need another. She gently rubs the arm of a resident, asking him if he is awake and if he knows a response. Almost as if the suspense were too much for some residents, they begin to offer a flood of answers.
‘Most people love some kind of music,’ said Vladana, who enjoys seeing that participants do their best, remember something and enjoy it. ‘I think I have an amazing profession.’
Vladana also works with other populations in private, educational and healthcare environments. Whatever the setting, her goal is always to provide a purposeful and meaningful experience that might serve to improve and enhance lives. Her website is www.musictoyourearsoc.com