How music helps Ron reconnect with those around him

Posted on Monday, May 27, 2019

Dementia is slowly taking away Ron’s personality, bit by bit. Although the changes are uncontrollable, Ron and his family can count on music to reinvigorate him when nothing else can.

Born in Perth in 1931, Ron has worn many hats over his 88 years. He was as a private investigator, ran his own real estate business, and even represented WA in surf lifesaving and judo. His most important role was, and still is, as a devoted father to Peter, David and Meredith, who he thanks for his six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Today, Ron lives with Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible condition that is gradually changing his reality. The disease has had a profound effect on his perception and communication, so much so that in 2015 he had to leave the home he shared with his beloved wife Carole, and move into Brightwater Oxford Gardens – an aged care home in Joondalup that provides the round-the-clock care he needs.

A once outgoing and affable fellow, the disease has left Ron struggling to speak to those around him.

But thanks to the Music Pharmacy, Brightwater’s unique wellbeing program that combines rhythm with research, Ron’s reality is that much brighter.

Ron has always been fond of music, especially Blues and Country. Although he rarely engages in group activities these days, he’s become more attentive with every music group he’s been a part of. So staff invited his wife Carole, so she could see first-hand the profound effect music was having on him. He was opening his eyes wide to the melodies, and with a little encouragement, even had a go at the instruments.

"I haven't seen him open his eyes for months, other than fleeting seconds. Here it's like he's been brought back to life."

When Johnny Cash comes on, Ron responds immediately. He sits up tall with bright eyes and a priceless smile, even socialising with other residents – something that was unheard of before the Music Pharmacy. And recently, with the powerful Hallelujah playing in the background, staff noticed a teary-eyed yet calm Ron, and took the opportunity to ask what the song meant to him. For the first time in a while, Ron leant in, maintained eye contact, and shared what he had to say.

Ron isn’t the only Brightwater client who can benefit from the power of music. With over 700 residents across 12 aged care homes, plus 1000 home care clients in the community, the Music Pharmacy can bring joy to some of WA’s most vulnerable people – the same people who once cared for us.

With your help, we can keep the Music Pharmacy running.
Please send your donation today.

Dementia continues to be a growing health issue in Australia. While the condition cannot be cured, non-medical interventions like music can make a world of difference.

There are many ways music can help improve wellbeing. In aged care, music has been shown to:

  • Evoke emotions and stimulate memories
  • Reduce agitation and decrease falls
  • Encourage social engagement

Research also shows positive outcomes for care workers who, through the shared experience of music, can foster deeper, more meaningful connections with residents. It also provides invaluable assistance with daily living activities and improves staff engagement and efficiency.

“A resident would not get out of bed one morning. When the care worker played You Are My Sunshine, the resident - who usually refuses care - sprung up like a spring chicken and said ‘I’ll come now!’”

We need to raise $250,000 so that more people can feel the joy and rejuvenation that music has to offer. Your generous gift will help cover the cost of instruments, equipment, music subscriptions and staff resources for thousands of Brightwater clients.

Ron’s wife Carole continues to attend the Music Pharmacy sessions, where she cherishes the moments spent holding Ron’s hand and looking into his eyes.

She’d love for the Music Pharmacy to continue, so her children and grandchildren too can have the chance to spend time with Ron while he’s alert and enchanted by the music.

Click here to send a donation and help keep the Music Pharmacy running.

PS: Every donation over $2 is tax deductible. By donating before June 30, you’ll not only help people like Ron, you’ll be able to include it in your tax return.