Man with dementia has finally been able to make contact with his wife again – with the help of a ‘Music Memory Box’
A spouse with dementia who does not speak has been able to reconnect with his wife with the help of a ‘music memory’.
The Music Memory Box is a kit that fills families with important objects such as photos, which also plays songs.
Steve Garrity, 82, and his wife Monica, 74, from Bristol, use the innovative box to play their love song – “Temma harbor” by Mary Hopkin, remembering their happy life together.
Mr. Garrity has been slowly deteriorating since his diagnosis of dementia and Parkinson’s in 2011 and has been unable to talk to his wife for five years.
Mrs. Garrity said that the box is ‘great’ for the couple, while Mr. Garrity is listening to the music and holding his hand to his wife.
The combination of memorabilia in the box, still in prototype, made by Chloe Meineck, 28, has seen incredible responses from patients who have difficulty communicating due to life with dementia or similar conditions.
Steve Garrity, 82, and his wife Monica, 74, have been able to reconnect to use the “Music Memory Box” after losing the ability to communicate due to dementia and Parkinson’s
The Music Memory Box (photo) is a kit that families fill with important objects such as photos, which also plays songs, made by Chloe Meineck, 28
Mr. and Mrs. Garrity married in Great Britain in 1967 (photo) and moved to Ghana the day after their wedding anniversary. Palm trees in the box and ‘Temma harbor’ by Mary Hopkin are able to bring the couple back to their most valuable times
Mrs Garrity said: ‘We have been able to make contact again, it is great.
“He usually doesn’t communicate with me, but when the music plays, he hums along and even sticks out his hand to grab mine.”
When the music is played through the box by the couple placing a miniature palm statue in the middle – an object that means the memory – Mr. Garrity can immediately remember the days when he and his wife were dancing on the coast of Ghana.
“We moved to Ghana over 50 years ago, so the song is very emotional,” Mrs. Garrity said.
“It brings us back to when we got married, it feels like we’re back in Ghana together.”
WHAT IS THE MUSIC MEMORY BOX?
According to founder Chloe Meineck, 28, the box uses ‘the suggestive power of music’ to create a tool for people with dementia to ‘recall, revive and reconnect with loved ones’.
Her journey to designing the box began as a child – visiting her 104-year-old great-grandmother who lived with dementia and played the piano together.
During a 3D design course at the University of Brighton, Meineck made the first customized version of the box as part of a final project after learning to code.
Since graduating in 2012, Ms. Meineck has received a grant from an artist’s residence to produce 28 prototypes of the product to send to families for testing.
The kickstarter fund she set up for the first launch of the project is hugely successful – generating £ 25k from donors in just two weeks – and Ms. Meineck is now preparing to ship the first orders.
Mrs. Meineck, who has won several awards as a young designer, added: “We have tested it with many families and I have been able to make improvements and ask for opinions.
“I am so happy that the kickstarter has reached the financing objective and we can start shipping the products to help families around the world.”
Mr. and Mrs. Garrity, who married in Great Britain in 1967, lived in the African country for four years and danced together on their song under the palm trees on the coast.
Unfortunately, Mr Garrity was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy’s dementia in 2011.
This type of progressive dementia that leads to a decrease in thinking, reasoning and an independent function.
Since 2013, when he moved to Deerhurst Nursing Home in Bristol, Mr. Garrity has lost the ability to talk to his wife because many people with both Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s struggle with speech.
However, Mrs. Garrity was one of the first users in the UK to try out the box in 2017.
When the object is placed in the center of the box, the corresponding song starts playing through a speaker on the front of the device.
Mrs. Garrity, a former medical secretary, and Mr. Garrity, a former building electrician, use the box every week to bring back memories of their incredible time in Africa.
The couple, who have two children – Mark, 50 and Kirsty, 48 – used to be a ballroom and rock and roll dancers.
Although Mr Garrity now uses a wheelchair, they share a love of music and Mrs. Garrity said her husband “lights up” as soon as one of their favorite songs is played.
She said: ‘When we play the songs, it is so emotional. Steve has gone backwards and can no longer talk.
In 2011, Mr. Garrity was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy’s dementia. Pictured, with his wife and one of their children in 1971.
Since 2013, when he moved to the Deerhurst nursing home in Bristol, Mr. Garrity has lost the ability to talk to his wife because of his dementia and Parkinson’s
Mrs. Garrity said her husband “lights up” as soon as one of their favorite songs is played. Pictured, with the box and objects that replicate their memories, such as a guitar and palm trees
“He doesn’t make many facial expressions because of his condition, but his memory is still there.
“He remembers the music from different points in our lives as soon as the song starts playing.
“The technology is great.”
Mrs. Garrity also uses other objects in the box to play music from various monumental events in their lives to remind Mr. Garrity of other moving times.
She added: “We have a guitar as one of the models.
“This refers to the song La Paloma by Andre Rieu, of which Garrity asked a guitarist to play for me in a restaurant.
“Steve knows as soon as it comes up and we are having dinner together again.
“We also have a photo of myself playing one of our favorite songs, Portrait of My Love by Matt Monro.”
There are an estimated 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and five million in the US.
It is estimated that by 2025 the number of people with dementia in the UK will increase to more than one million.
It is estimated that 145,000 people were diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 in the UK and about 60,000 in the US each year.
WHAT IS LEWY BODY DEMENTIA?
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of degenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
It is the form in which Robin Williams was diagnosed before he took his own life in 2014.
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, LBD affects the areas of the brain responsible for vision – as opposed to memory.
This means that patients can start with memory loss, but over time, the more debilitating symptoms will be powerful hallucinations, nightmares and spatial consciousness problems.
LBD is closely linked to Parkinson’s disease, which means that many patients will also develop Parkinson’s – as happened with Robin Williams.
The most common symptoms are:
- Disturbed thinking, such as loss of executive function (planning, processing of information), memory or the ability to understand visual information.
- Fluctuations in cognition, attention or alertness;
- Problems with movement, including vibrations, stiffness, slowness and difficulty walking
- Visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not present)
- Sleep disorders, such as indulging your dreams while you sleep
- Behavioral and moody symptoms, including depression, apathy, anxiety, agitation, delusions or paranoia
- Changes in autonomous body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature control and bladder and bowel function.
HOW IT BEGINS:
Many patients will first develop Parkinson’s, which suffers from physical handicaps, before doctors diagnose their dementia. That’s what happened to the late-revered actor Robin Williams.
Some start with memory loss that can be mistaken for the most common Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, they will develop symptoms that are more clearly associated with LBD.
WHAT DOES IT CAUSE:
There is no known cause. What we do know is that the risk increases with age.
At the cellular level, LBD is characterized by small lumps of abnormal proteins that are produced by the brain when the cells are not functioning properly.
They cause memory problems, although they are usually not as severe as Alzheimer’s – which is related to an accumulation of the beta-amyloid protein.
Another important difference is that Lewy body dementia affects areas of the brain that are responsible for vision, causing powerful hallucinations, nightmares and problems with spatial awareness.