Music Music Music

IMG_8050Music is something we all can ‘resonate with.’ When I’ve done Musical Instrument Museum tours, I always ask for a show of hands: “Who plays a musical instrument?” and “Who likes to listen to music?” All hands go up. This applies to all of us. It’s the latest buzz in the culture that music improves the lives of those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and it’s true. I’ve seen it time and time again.

The photo here shows a music book my longtime friend had left on the organ at a church in Tucson. I found out years later she had developed serious dementia. Her daughter-in-law, who had brought her home to the east coast, found an electronic keyboard. When my friend sat down and saw another songbook of hers, she played it cover to cover. If the keyboard hadn’t been provided, she may have never played again. But she had the chance to show her true colors, and they were beautiful to hear.

I knew another woman at a care community who couldn’t speak comfortably anymore, but when I started playing live music one evening a week right after supper, she sat in the front row and sang every – single – word – of – every – song. Wow, I said to myself, this is powerful. We made sure she was at each music evening, so she could access herself again so beautifully, and so others could see her come to life again, and regain respect for her as a connected human being.

We humans still need proof that someone is ‘in there’ and when we can see a transformation like this, it’s good for all of us.

So make music, or provide it for yourself and the one you care for. Keep song lists on the table or piano, and see if the one you love remembers. I’ve seen them remember often; make it easy, and start the music yourself. It will put a spring in your step too. Win-win.

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Time for Three – Amazing Quartet

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Returning to Solid Ground – Personalizing Care – An Interview with Tryn Rose Seley


In 2012, Tryn Rose Seley published a beautiful book titled “15 Minutes of Fame.” This little gem takes a look at personalizing dementia care and improving life’s experience for those who have trouble remembering. Creating moments of joy each day should be the focus of Alzheimer’s care, Seley says, and her book introduces readers to practical ideas for doing this.

Seley’s philosophy is designed for those who need help each day getting back in touch with people and places in their lives. Her idea of “bringing people back to ground,” or centering them with a touch, a song, a favorite photo, or a familiar story is comforting. For Seley, it doesn’t matter whether these songs or stories will be remembered; it’s all about feelings or memories in the moment. Music is an important part of awakening memories and reminding those with memory loss of familiar things and places.

Early in her career, Seley used music to open doors of communication while teaching preschool-age and children with special needs. Later, as a professional caregiver, she discovered that music and art could spark memories for older people unable to communicate. Seley’s work with the Alzheimer’s Association program, “Memories in the Making,” enriched her experience with stimulating long-forgotten memories. “We can raise energy with music and storytelling,” Seley says. “People (with memory loss) go back to one or two things that have meaning for them. We aren’t teaching art, but drawing it out of them.” Her tools of trade are her voice, a guitar, and a mountain dulcimer.

Seley’s “15 Minutes of Fame” weaves together memorable quotes, photos, and an inspirational message to those who may be frustrated or having difficulty caring for someone with memory loss. “Returning to solid ground,” the underlying theme of Seley’s writing, explores the idea of using these resources to familiarize caregivers with their charges and provide them with tools for defusing difficult moments. Reintroducing the familiar evokes thoughts and memories of things that are comfortable—a personal approach that builds an atmosphere of mutual trust and positive interaction. This approach lightens moments for weary caregivers too, and reminds them of the importance of tending to emotional needs.

Seley suggests setting aside 15 minutes a day to learn something about someone or to talk with him or her about things that have special meaning. Sharing one photo, one song, or one story about a person’s life every day is the backbone of her philosophy for nurturing the spirit. Seley acknowledges that setting aside 15 minutes may seem difficult first, but she encourages people to start small and build up.

It seems that care facilities would benefit from integrating Seley’s approach into their daily routines. When prospective residents move to care communities, for example, staff usually requests written information about their personal preferences, hobbies, and talents. Why not ask families for favorite photos, songs, and descriptions of memorable events as well? This information could be assembled into notebooks, placed in residents’ private living spaces, and used as conversation starters for caregivers and visitors. Care communities could also divide responsibility among caregivers for learning about more about residents and sharing this information with staff and families.

This beautifully written book is recommended for any caregiver or family of someone with memory loss. “15 Minutes of Fame” is available on Seley’s website at as a digital download, as a Nook copy at, or as a Kindle download on Contact her directly at for a hardcopy version of the book.

AUTHOR TRYN ROSE SELEY is a professional caregiver, musician, and photographer. She grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, and lived in Pennsylvania and Colorado before moving to her current home in Scottsdale, AZ. Seley has a degree in elementary education and has studied music, which she has woven into her personal and professional life.

Written By: Patricia Woodell
November 1, 2014

– See more at:

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Christmas from Bed


So Christmas for me in 2014 was spent mostly in bed; I had a bout of salmonella, not fun at all. I didn’t get to put up most decorations (this is a photo of a Christmas past). I didn’t get to sing or lead music with small and large groups, which I’ve done for many years. Was I sad? A little. But I’ve also been around for 46 Christmases so far, and I drew upon Christmases past to cheer me up. I looked at pictures, read stories, and sang a few songs from my bedroom. It worked to bring the spirit of Christmas to our home and hearts. We also instituted a ‘ring the key chime, open a present’ tradition so we could gather some moments of joy whenever we needed one.

The one trip I’ve made out of the house was to the hairdresser. A good haircut goes a long way. She shared about a friend’s 4-year-old son who asked, “Mom, how many Christmases have I been around for?” Mom: “Well, you’re four now, so….four.” “I only remember 2, so I don’t believe you.” She showed him pictures and tried to prove that he’d indeed seen 4 holiday seasons thus far. It remains to be seen if he will believe her, but nevertheless, he’s been celebrated thoroughly. When someone with dementia doesn’t believe you’ve done what you’ve done, try to realize that you have done good things, and that celebrating from bed can be ok.

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Spiritual Book For Caregivers

IMG_0018I am writing a spiritual book for caregivers. Here’s a glimpse.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Divine Providence does not regard that which is brief and transient, and comes to an end with a person’s life in the world; rather, it regards that which remains forever and so does not come to an end.”
“Secrets of Heaven,” Emanuel Swedenborg

Butterflies live a very short time. Oh, except for the monarch, whose third generation travels back from Canada to Mexico for the winter, lays eggs in Texas on the milkweed in the spring, so the cycle can continue.

I see people with dementia traveling to the next realm already. I spoke with a woman whose mother had Alzheimer’s, who would have periods of resistance to bathing, dressing, eating. Then, later, she apologized to her daughter for her struggles. The daughter perceived that her mom was connecting with her son and twin sister who had passed away, and was not wanting to stay in this world anymore. When this daughter realized this, she could be part of the letting go and supporting her mom’s readiness to depart to the next life. She did, and she did.

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If It’s Not Alzheimer’s, What is it?

As a full time caregiver, I didn’t always know what caused dementia for the people I cared for. I just cared for them. Dementia symptoms of confusion, disorientation, and the inability to function in daily routines of living and working can be caused by many things. When I worked for the Alzheimer’s Association, I learned it really is essential to know the cause of these symptoms. Why? Because if it’s not “Alzheimer’s-related dementia” then it could be something treatable.

Heart conditions, high or low blood pressure, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, the flu, dehydration-these are all potential causes of dementia symptoms that may be improved by treatments, herbs, homeopathy, chiropractic, medical procedures or medications.

If you or someone you love is having memory and function problems, be the advocate for yourself or for him or her, and ask a doctor you trust to give a full medical exam. Tell the doctor to check all your physical systems, even if he or she seems driven to diagnose you with Alzheimer’s, and make sure you are honest about your health history. We can damage our bodies over the years, and we can heal them too, with proper care. If you are otherwise healthy, but have dementia symptoms, then it’s called “Alzheimer’s-related dementia.” But this is the last thing on the list, so let the doctor check everything, and perhaps turn the tide back to wellness for you.

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Alzheimer’s Resource: Special Offer

Tryn Rose Seley, Author

Tryn Rose Seley, Author

I am grateful for Amelia Schafer and her stellar work at the Alzheimer’s Association: Colorado Chapter. She is a thoughtful and caring teacher, program developer and director, and a mentor and friend. If you are an Alzheimer’s Association Program Director, and contact me, I will send you a free printed copy for your resource library. I’d be honored to support your caregivers across the country.

Tryn Rose Seley /


Dear Program Directors,

I’m writing to let you know about, “15 Minutes of Fame,” a resource written by a former Alzheimer’s Association employee and wonderful soul, Tryn Rose Seley. Tryn has been an Alzheimer’s advocate, caregiver guru, and friend of the Alzheimer’s Association: Colorado Chapter for many years.

You can learn more about “15 Minutes of Fame” at Tryn’s website Caregiver Heart. It is available in a print copy or as a downloadable ebook. This is a great resource for both families and professional caregivers.

Please take a look and share this resource with your staff, volunteers, and families.

Amelia Schafer, MS | Director of Professional Education | Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado | 455 Sherman St | Suite 500 | Denver CO 80203 | | NATIONAL HELPLINE 800.272.3900


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Exercise Now, I Don’t Mind How

I just took me a walk. A walk that included rolling a water bottle back and forth between my hands and arms, giving me a wider stretch and a higher heart rate, admiring the birds, flowers and bunnies, singing my favorite song of the moment, and getting to know my new neighborhood streets. It felt great.

I am not a person who exercises as much as I could, and I don’t use the word “should” very often, but here it is. I should exercise more often. Why? Because I am 45 years old, and I want to be well, as well as I can, while I am in charge of my own choices. My family lives long, into their 90’s, wise-cracking and/or waxing eloquent ’til the end of this chapter of living. But I’ve noticed my own lag of energy, or lack of peanut-butter-jar-opening strength, so it’s up to me. Luckily, it’s up to me to get where I want to go.

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has promoted The Four Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention for over 20 years now. They are:

1) Diet (Food Choices) and Supplements

2) Stress Management

3) Physical and Mental Exercise

4) Prescription Medications (when needed)

One has to get the blood flowing. Did you know that 25% of every pump of the heart is supposed to go to the brain? If the heart is blocked, or not working at a higher capacity at all, well, that brain is not getting what it needs. It also means one might have symptoms of dementia because of varied health problems: constricted arteries, high or low blood pressure, other heart issues, etc.

I only walked for 40 minutes. I needed to rest at the end. I plan to add more vigorous regimes one day at a time. I have taught chair exercise; fabulous, do that if that fits. Whatever the top level of one’s abilities, one ought to go ahead and get going, for your own sake. Why take the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, when you have the power now to aim at preventing it?

Check out more valuable resources at APRF: 888.908.5766 or


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Hospice Care: Good or Not So Good?

Truth is, with the elder needs of our culture growing by leaps and bounds, there will always be a need for hospice care, and I’ve seen some of the best care provided by skillful, intelligent, patient, kind men and women. One man I knew passed away in a hospice care community the day I visited him, and had told him the best stories about his life that I had come to know. He was peaceful and comfortable. One woman I cared for gently sailed away right before I arrived at her room. Her grand-daughter almost cancelled a lifetime trip for her family to stay with her, but went because she trusted the care of the hospice group. This grand-daughter was on the phone with her, telling her she loved her, as she passed. It was golden and dear.

There was a recent article in the Washington Post describing some very poor care practices in some hospices in America. But lean in here: it is a family member or friend’s job to ask questions, to ask for better results, to advocate for the loved one receiving care. It’s like recommending a restaurant, service, doctor; you share with friends the ones who are good at serving people, right? We can raise the quality of a hospice’s ability to care by being present, by phone or otherwise, and by providing those volunteers with photos, songs, and stories of the person’s life to remind them that this is a *person first,* a valuable human being who deserves respect and the very IMG_2281best care. And, doing this invites that hospice person to join the family, and he or she might become family to you more than your biological family in some cases. Help them join you in caring for your loved one.

We all have to take responsibility to partner with those who can support our loved ones at the time of his or her passing. Please do.




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Touching the Sky from Solid Ground | Dementia Services Development Centre l DSDC, Stirling

Touching the Sky from Solid Ground | Dementia Services Development Centre l DSDC, Stirling.

Review of “15 Minutes of Fame” by Dr Tom Christie. Read, and connect with his supportive and valuable resources at this link.

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