"Providing support and training to help those living with dementia"

"Sing Along with Margaret" features songs I recorded with my mom. No longer able to talk, singing is one of the main ways Mom communicates. And she loves to sing: it makes her happy, improves her mood, clams her down, and helps her sleep. Many people with dementia benefit from music therapy. This project is unique because this music is not only for people with Alzheimer's disease, it is sung by a special lady with the disease, and she wants to share her joy with others.

100_1298    Listen to one of our songs and share our joy!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plwDkhRATCk]

The Power of Music

Music is very powerful, and research shows it is therapeutic for people with dementia. The Wisconsin Dementia Care System Redesign: A Plan for a Dementia-Capable Wisconsin (published earlier this year by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) recommends the Music & Memory program, which teaches caregivers and health professionals how to create play lists of “favorite songs” that are then delivered using an iPod with headphones. The program is evidence based, and I have every reason to believe that it works because I have done something similar on my own with my mother.

I happen to be musically inclined: I play piano and guitar and I like to sing, so music has always been a part of my mom’s therapy at home. She responds much better to “live” music than recorded music. If I play my guitar in her room, she is much more engaged. If I play a CD of a familiar singer (like Elvis) it is mostly just background noise to her and she doesn't respond as well. It’s when I (or someone else in her room) sing to her and with her when music has the best response. The only thing was I was playing my guitar or keyboard so often that my fingers hurt. So I decided to record the songs, just using the built-in mic on my laptop and then burning the songs to a CD that plays in her boombox. The "live" recordings of the music work great, and I can play the CDs and sing to her while I hold her hand, or while I wash her hair or giver her a bath. The music helps her relax and she is more willing to cooperate.

While it is important to find music that is meaningful, there are several songs that are universal and well-liked and known by just about everyone, such as “You Are My Sunshine,” “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and “I've Been Working on the Railroad.” For my mom, there is one song that always snaps her out of a bad mood (whether it is sundowning, anxiety, hallucinations, or fighting at bath time) and that’s the old German folk tune “Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen.” Some of her other favorites are “Bicycle Built for Two,” “The Band Played On,” “I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover,” and “Wooden Heart.” Repetition is not a problem. She can listen to these few songs over and over, and for people with dementia, the repetition can help: it might take a few choruses of “You Are My Sunshine” before they start singing along.

The transformation can be phenomenal. People with advanced dementia withdraw further and further into an isolated world. Music brings back pleasant memories of the past, but by singing with you, it connects them to the present and to shared moments of joy.

The Project

We want to bring this joy to others with Alzheimer's disease and advanced dementia. We want to share our music as "permanent digital downloads" available through iTunes. These songs will be available to health care professionals and caregivers who use the Music & Memory program, but they will also be available to anyone who wants to download them and share them with a loved one.

Almost every song we recorded is copyrighted and requires a license to distribute digitally. Licensing is acquired through The Harry Fox Agency. I researched the licensing fees for our songs, and to allow 250 downloads of each song, it would cost about $22 per song. We have recorded four albums of ten songs each (40 songs total). The licensing fees for these songs total $875 (these are royalty fees that are paid back to those who hold the copyright for these songs). There is also a standard processing fee of $556. There is also about $70 of additional costs related to making the recordings. Therefore our project comes to a total of $1500.

We want to raise this money so that we can then offer these songs FREE to those using the Music & Memory program or to any one who wants to use these songs as music therapy with those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Without your donation, we would have to charge 50 cents per download, or $20.00 for the four-volume set of songs (to cover the licensing fees). We feel this cost would be a burden on families caring for a loved one with dementia. With your help we can provide music therapy to hundreds of people at no cost to them.

Why We Need Your Help

We have about half of the songs already recorded, and they are already being used as part of Margaret's music therapy program. The main cost of this project is securing the licensing rights so that we can make this music available through iTunes. If we do not secure a license and pay royalties for the use of these songs, we will be in violation of federal copyright laws and vulnerable to legal action. All of the songs we record are well known, well loved favorites: songs like  "You Are My Sunshine" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." We also recorded an "album" of hymns and sacred songs, and we will soon begin recording our Christmas "album" with favorites such as "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night." But all of these songs -- each and every one of them -- are copyright protected and require a license to record and distribute. The total cost is $1500, and this is too much of an out-of-pocket cost for me to bear alone, as I resigned from my job in 2010 to become the full-time, live-in caregiver for my mom for the past four years. But because I have experienced first hand how music benefits people with dementia, I want to make Margaret's music available to others. The cost of licensing fees is the only barrier.

Please Donate

There are two ways to help support this unique and meaningful project.


Visit our Kickstart page and read more about our project, including available rewards for donations of $5 or more.


Click the Paypal button below for another secure way to donate.