Chestnut Knoll residents tap into memories

Carl Rhude playing bongos.

Music and art allow self-expression and engagement and can improve the lives of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, even after it has progressed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Chestnut Knoll memory care residents are learning how music can improve their lives and bring back memories by getting a hands-on experience making their own music, thanks to instrument donations from Zeswitz Music in Exeter, Pa.

Jennelle Jamison, director of the Chestnut Knoll Memory Care Neighborhood, discovered that a few memory care residents used to play the drums years ago; one of them, Richard (Dick) Frame, even played for the Philadelphia Eagles football team back when they had a band. After learning this, Jamison thought it would be nice to tap into those memories and bring back their passion for music. She called Zeswitz Music and explained who she was and what she was looking for, and they generously donated some of their used instruments to the community.

“The results have been fantastic,” said Jamison. “Zeswitz donated a snare drum and numerous tambourines and maracas to our memory care neighborhood. They even donated an acoustic/electric guitar to our Alzheimer’s Association Beef and Beer fundraiser, and it was auctioned off for $200! Music is important to those who suffer from memory impairment and we hope these instruments can help improve our seniors who have developed dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. We are thrilled that Zeswitz was kind enough to donate these instruments and help our seniors at Chestnut Knoll.”

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We want to be engaged in our local community and contribute where we can. This seemed to be the perfect match; my mother-in-law has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for almost 15 years, and I’m a drummer,” said Neal Reinhard, general manager of Zeswitz Music. “This was a very simple and small way of trying to help bring a little bit of pleasure into the lives of the residents of Chestnut Knoll. When Jennelle showed me a video of two gentlemen playing the snare drum, it was clear to me that there could hardly be a better home for that drum. Hopefully, the other residents will enjoy the other percussion instruments as well.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies show that music may improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of Alzheimer’s. Even in the late stages, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood (Alzheimer’s Association website).

“One of the most remarkable benefits of music and music therapy is how it soothes the soul and lifts the spirit,” said Kellie Butsack, associate director of programs for the Alzheimer’s Association, Delaware Valley Chapter. “I’ve seen non-verbal dementia residents find their voice again during a hymn and others who can still enjoy playing instruments like it was just yesterday, even when it’s been 20 or 30 years since they last played. The outcomes can be truly amazing.”

Music can form a connection, even after verbal communication has become difficult. It’s helpful to identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person, and encourage movement like clapping and dancing (Alzheimer’s Association website).

“It is amazing to see the power that music has on bringing back memories,” said Shawn Barndt, executive director. “Music elicits feelings, emotions, memories, and has the ability to bring smiles to faces that otherwise may be feeling down. We are thankful to those who have partnered with us, such as Zeswitz, in helping us achieve our mission!”

Currently, the memory care residents take turns playing the drums outside of Jamison’s office during the week and the staff is working on incorporating the instruments into daily programs and activities to help with those with progressing dementia.

“Chestnut Knoll is committed to meeting the needs of those who suffer from memory loss,” said Barndt. “We recognize that these needs go beyond that of simply personal care needs, and extend into meeting psychosocial needs as well. Ensuring that the person’s complete needs are being met enables them to live a more balanced, dignified life, despite their dementia diagnosis.”

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, visit www.alz.org/desjsepa. Information about music, art and Alzheimer’s is from the Alzheimer’s Association official website, www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-music-art-therapy.asp.

Zeswitz Music provides private instruction on the instrument of your choice, in addition to instrument rentals, repairs or exchanges, and purchases. Zeswitz Music also visits local schools, bringing the store’s services to you. For more information about Zeswitz Music, call 610-406-4300.

Learn more about how Chestnut Knoll’s expertise with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can make a difference in the life of your loved one. For more information about Chestnut Knoll Memory Care, please call 610-473-8066.