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Music Therapy: Gentle on My Mind

Anyone who attended one of country star Glen Campbell’s “Farewell Tour” concerts in 2012

knows that music is a blessing for people living with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers. Sold-out audiences included not just long-­‐time fans, but also many people in early stages of various memory-­‐impairing diseases and their family members, all of whom enjoyed  cheering on the popular entertainer.

After his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Glen and his wife, Kim, chose to share their experiences  with the public. Their family decided it would be a glorious adventure to let fans hear Glen’s music in person one last time. His daughter, Ashley, and son, Shannon, were in his band onstage throughout the tour. Yes, there were memory lapses; but fans smiled, clapped and encouraged the entertainer as Ashley helped him navigate.

“Who wrote this song?” Glen asked more than once.

“You did!” Ashley answered, laughing along with him as the audience stood and cheered. Whenever Glen searched for a note or lyric, Ashley was there to help. At every concert she seized the opportunity to share how music was therapeutic for her dad. “It’s what makes him better,” she would say with a smile.  “It’s a non-­‐medicine medicine.”

Music therapy has been shown to have positive effects on anyone living with memory-­‐ impairing diseases, not just musicians.  A 1999 study by the University of Miami    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Studies reported increased levels of melatonin most likely contributed to Alzheimer’s patient’s relaxed and calm moods.  Music therapy has proven to relieve agitation, crying, restlessness, wandering and to promote better sleep, social behavior and communication.

Glen Campbell’s touring days have ended, but his music is more popular than ever at Autumn Leaves communities and in the daily lives of individuals and caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  His family’s willingness to share their remarkable journey has given us a new meaning for one of his finest song titles, Gentle on My Mind.  Thank you, Glen!

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