Music is a helpful tool for calming patients with Alzheimer’s and bringing back memories for them. Singing along with other patients or a caregiver can help days be a bit more bearable. A chorus made especially for those suffering from the disease is finding a way to continue to bring the happiness of song to its members, despite the pandemic.
The Singing Hills Chorus, based in Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota, is getting ready for its spring session by inviting singing duets to join the group via Zoom. Singing duets are generally a collaborative music team of someone with dementia and their friend or family member. The rehearsals will ultimately lead to a spring concert, which may continue to be virtual. It all depends on when it will be safe to sing together again in-person.
Singing Hills Program Director Sandi Lubrant says despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19, their program still brings light to its members.
She explains, “Even prior to Covid people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease often face isolation and just have fewer opportunities in the community to engage. So we just think that many people could benefit from being part of this chorus. It’s full of a wonderful group of people who care deeply for each other.”
The group was founded in 2017 through the Mankato & North Mankato ACT on Alzheimer’s Action Team. No prior singing experience is necessary, there aren’t any auditions, and there are a variety of challenging and familiar pieces. Dementia-aware volunteers are there to help as needed. There’s also typically plenty of time for socializing among members, which include dementia patients, their caregivers, and volunteers.
Kathy Sallstrom’s mother Jane, who had Alzheimer’s, was one of the original members. Though her mother passed away in 2018, she continues to sing in the group with her aunt. She says it’s wonderful to see how music can bring back memories for those with Alzheimer’s.
Sallstrom explains, “I think there’s a connotation that people living with Alzheimer’s have limitations where actually they still have abilities and that potential. This brought so much joy.”
The group was able to put on one in-person show in the fall with an American Sign Language performance of “I Will Sing.” They performed it in a socially-distanced fashion outside Good Counsel Hill in Mankato on a day with good weather. Audio of their singing was later added to the video.
Lubrant says, “We were really determined to share a song together. We felt like American Sign Language gave us that opportunity; it was a beautiful way to express the song.”
The rest of the performances were via video in members’ homes and solo performances in a chapel. They were shared in early December on their Facebook and YouTube pages.
To watch the virtual concert, check out the video below.Whizzco