Hello… It is 3:29 in the morning. It’s cold, dark, and the last place that I want to be right now is sitting in a cold study, typing in the middle of the night. And yet, here I am, writing to you about a gigantically bigger topic than I had planned. If you’re ever going to gamble on reading a paragraph, gamble on this one. It’s for your benefit and possibly someone you love very much. Please…read on. Please…
There’s Hope: As with a lot of people, Pamela and I had finished our work for the day and were looking for something entertaining to watch. It’s getting harder by the way. Perhaps we’re getting pickier, but by sheerest chance I came upon a documentary that looked…if not exciting, a tiny bit informative. I was wrong. It was exciting, hugely informative and by the end, Pam and I had tears streaming down our faces. The thought that came through was that there’s Hope…real no-bullshit hope. We didn’t expect it. We weren’t even looking for it. And it hit both of us like a sledge hammer. Let’s get to it.
The name of this extraordinary documentary is Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. Most important of all, here is the link: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70299276?trkid=13462100 If you don’t get Netflix, the whole documentary is free on You Tube. Just type in Alive Inside.
They aren’t asking for anything, no money, no time, no nothing. It isn’t that kind of documentary. If you do nothing else today, go to the link. It will provide you with serious knowledge that can make your life better…or possibly the life of someone you love very much…..a whole order of magnitude better.
Dan Cohen, a geriatric social worker, accidentally discovered a mind-blowing fact, while making rounds at nursing homes, retirement homes, assisted living homes. Time after time after time, he observed utterly hopeless old people, our moms, our dads, our sisters and our brothers, sitting in chairs, essentially dead inside. Their brains are gone and the medications they are on keep them so sedated that they can be wheeled around like so much furniture. The first image you’ll see (above) is that of an old black man, slumped over in a chair. His family comes to visit…his eyes are shut and the absolute best his family can get out of him is a dull grunt. That’s it… They sit around and talk about him as if he’s already dead. For all intents and purposes, he IS already dead. There is zero communication and statistically, a vicious circle begins. With no interaction, the amount of visitation at old-folks homes drops to near-zero. But here, as they say, is where a miracle happens, only…it’s a replicable miracle!
An iPod??? No…no pill is popped, no injection goes into his arm and our Savior does not appear and touch him on the forehead. Dan Cohen slips a set of headphones over his ears and hits a button on a small iPod the size of a matchbook. For this man, Louis Armstrong is now singing inside his head. A second goes by, two seconds, and then you see before your eyes the miracle beginning. Eyes pop open, bleary from not having actually looked at anything for a year. He gazes around and… begins singing along with Louis! The image you see above is the first frame of the cameraman capturing his awakening. Compare the two images for yourself.
More fascinating, his daughter asks him who is singing…and he knows. His arms begin swaying to the beat, toes tapping. He has finally truly awakened. Seriously, monumentally, amazingly…awakened. A slender thread of communication has just formed with his loved ones that had long ago vanished.
Before you roll your eyes in skepticism, think for a moment: Did you ever notice that for all the minutiae that you’re having trouble remembering… Who the hell is this new starlet? What’s the name of that guy we knew at the old house? ….a song, any song from 10, 20, 3o, 50 years ago and SONOFAGUN…you remember the lyrics perfectly. You start singing…and those stupid lyrics come right back to you. It’s not just you and it’s not just me. For a variety of reasons which aren’t yet understood, music…and lyrics hard-wire so completely into our brains that they even survive the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s the key and that’s where the magic comes from.
MUSIC as a Link: More importantly, each of those songs provides a conduit back into your mind’s memory banks. People with horrible, give-up-and-go-home symptoms of Alzheimer’s have a window to their minds that is otherwise closed. What does it cost to open that window? It’s not a pill that costs $300 from Medicaid, it’s a little pair of headphones placed over your ears that you can use over and over. Once again, this isn’t one of those nasty commercials where you’re waiting for the hook that asks you to reach for your check book. This is for you, my friend, and your mom and your dad…and maybe your wife.
Scary Statistics: I was vaguely aware that Alzheimer’s Disease was spreading rapidly, though I didn’t have the facts…nothing graphic in mind. 65 years ago the graph of the world population with Alzheimer’s looked a lot like a tall pyramid…(tiny part at the top was old people…big base of the population was young.) Today, it’s not a pyramid. It’s a column. In other words, the number of people with Alzheimers is a major portion of our world population. By 2050 there’s a pyramid once more…only upside-down as the number of old folks with Alzheimer’s goes out of control.
This breakthrough provides a conduit, a lifesaver, if you will, where the lives of our parents, our loved ones…and ourselves can be much much better.
Your Mom or Your Sister: Maybe you could…or maybe you couldn’t relate to an old black gentleman waking from a long sleep of nothingness. Ten minutes later, you meet a couple in their 50s. The husband is quiet…looks sad and his wife is exactly what your best friend or maybe your sister looks like. Slender, a bit bedraggled, and care-worn.
For a long moment, you have no idea which one has the Alzheimer’s. The wife, keeps apologizing. She is asked to name the spoon that’s held up in front of her. She can’t and she starts crying. She apologizes. At the entrance to the elevator the camera rolls as she’s asked to hit the “down button”. She can’t. She just can’t figure it out. Next shot, Dan Cohen slips on a set of headphones and…you hear at the same time she hears…The Beach Boys. And then something happens. She begins swaying…then laughing. She stands up and begins dancing, swaying a little to the beat. She opens her eyes and says, “C’mon guys,” to the camera man…and they dance. At the end….she begins weeping. Her husband is weeping, too. He asks his wife, “Why are you crying?” She looks at him for the first time since… “I’m happy…and I love you, Bob.”
Alzheimer’s Disease isn’t a disease that hits other people, people other than yourself. It can hit anyone… anyone. Exercising and cutting out red meat and dieting don’t do diddly. And the rate of Alzheimer’s increases EXPONENTIALLY past the age of 60. Take a look at this link. Here it is again: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70299276?trkid=13462100
My Sister: Is this miracle just for Alzheimer’s Disease? No, it is not. It works for other disorders as well. Bipolar, Schizophrenics… they’re just beginning to discover the potential. It’s in this documentary and this one hits very close to home. A member of my family, my sister, through zero fault of her own, has suffered this terrible, terrible bad luck of the draw for decades. Trouble is, after so many years, you begin to see only the results of the disease at work…not the poor victim who succumbed. It’s in this link. I see my own sister, how she is now…and how she could be transformed. Watch and learn. Watch and be moved. Watch and brush away the tears. It doesn’t have to be this bad. There’s hope. The pretty girl on the scooter is my sister, Mimi.
P.S. I promised you I wouldn’t proselytize and I intend to keep that promise. I will say that Pamela and I are right now exploring how best to spread the word. That is the first step. If you’d like to help just a little you can forward this e-mail…or just the link to someone you love. That’s the first step.
There are hundreds of thousands…perhaps millions of iPods sitting in drawers that were supplanted by the newest toy. That old iPod you don’t use anymore could wake up someone’s mom or dad or grandparent. We are exploring how a tie-point can be established to bring this all about. Sometimes it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Thanks for reading!