LOS ANGELES, CA — Every 65 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s in America. More than 55 million people are living with dementia worldwide. Sixty-thousand people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year. These neurological disorders are life-changing and will ultimately be life-ending. Although there are no cures for these diseases, there are things that can help patients live a more fulfilling life; one woman is harnessing the power of music to help mend minds.
All of these people have found their voice after losing their memories.
“You're watching the power of music, changing brain chemistry.” Carol Rosenstein, the founder of Music Mends Minds explains.
Carol Rosenstein witnessed firsthand the power of music, “My darling Irwin of 38 years was a musician.”
As Parkinson’s and dementia robbed Irwin of his ability to remember or communicate, music became their connection.
Rosenstein says that “When he was playing the piano and feeling very low within about 10 or 15 minutes, I would see him resurrect. And re-engage with the environment, just like he took a dose of meds.”
The experience led Rosenstein to start 5th Dementia, a band for Irwin and others with neurodegenerative diseases.
Ninety-five-year-old Sam Namer started losing his memory seven years ago.
“I just get so sad thinking about it,” Sam’s wife, Paula, explains. She also witnessed the impact music had on her husband. She goes on to say, “He lights up, he lights up and we laugh, and we sing. The most fabulous thing, what it does to the brain. All the neurons come alive, and you know, all the endorphins get buzzing. It's like good sex. You know, you just, whoa, what's this.”
“The music storage cells in our brains never die. And these cells are responsible for the memory of music. And that's the miracle upon which our platform has grown.” Rosenstein says of the impact of music on the brain.
Rosenstein expanded the group, starting Music Mends Minds, a non-profit that creates musical support groups for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. You can see the transformation. At the beginning of a session with David, a Parkinson’s patient. After finding his rhythm he becomes able to communicate more clearly.
Seeing results like this again and again, Rosenstein knew she couldn’t let covid stop their progress. “We started zoom, zooming everywhere.” And now, hundreds of people from across the globe are taking part.
Rosenstein explains that “It's a love affair from beginning to end. And this is how we have nursed a global audience through covid.”
As for Irwin, even at the end of his life, his failing body could still find the beat. Rosenstein shares, “The beat kept us going till the end of time, what a gift.”
Music Mends Minds has joined with national rotary clubs to invite even more people to participate and will also be available on Roku. Music mends minds meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30 pacific time on zoom. To sign up, go to www.musicmendsminds.org.