Roughly 40 million family caregivers nationwide provide unpaid care valued at about $470 billion a year to adults who need help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation and managing medications, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.The need to provide elder care for a loved one can certainly derail even a well developed succession plan. While some music makers may lack the temperament or time to care for the physical needs of loved ones, music makers are uniquely qualified to tend to their spiritual needs.
When dad was 92, he was beginning to lose his capacity to speak. His language turned into gibberish. He did manage to get out one coherent sentence that I’ll never forget. He said I don’t know what I need.
I knew I had to take a different strategy, so I used the most powerful tool in my tool box. Something that my dad had given me when I was 12. My guitar. Although dad had lost his ability to speak, he didn’t lose his ability to sing with the correct lyrics. I could remember calling him from my mobile phone, standing on Madison Ave in front of my office in NYC and singing songs. He loved the tune- Hello Dolly- So I would sing- Hello daddy, then he would sing back to me, hello Jaimie. I could still hear his voice.
In 2011 dad’s aide was taking a video of dad interacting with my music making. The transformation which happens after only 22 seconds is truly remarkable. You’ll first see dad clapping to the rhythm and then he pushes himself up and begins dancing. Keep in mind, that only a few months after this video, he also started losing his ability to walk.
To observe the glorious healing power of music in a mere 1.26 seconds, click the video window above.
22 seconds- Dad is hand clapping.
26 seconds- Dad is saying “That’s beautiful” his first coherent sentence that afternoon.
42 seconds- Dad is saying “Isn’t that something”
46 seconds- Dad takes his eye glasses off and is saying “That camp.” (He is calling my music school I operated in the 80’s a camp). “That’s nice.” (Puts his glasses back on).
58 seconds- Dad begins to stand up and starts dancing!
My dad gave me the guitar when I was 12. My mom encouraged me to practice. We all sang together when I was young. I will be eternally grateful that I was able to return the gift of music to my dad. in the end, it turned out that what dad needed was to hear me playing music. The ultimate gift I could give.
A day after Valentines Day in 2013, my dad passed away with a smile on his face.