My mother is in the midst of one of those times of improvement that sometimes happens for dementia patients. I know not to attribute an inordinate amount of significance to what is probably a temporary situation, but I thought I'd share the event that triggered her improvement in case others might be helped.
When Mom came to live with us I learned quickly that following the same schedule every single day was important to her sense of security. She felt most comfortable in her familiar chair in her familiar room, and seven years later is happily following the same routines we established when she first moved in. In fact, she has become so habituated to our daily routine that if I forget to turn on her music in the morning or to supply her with her notebook and pen, she reminds me.
Although I knew that changing decorations in her room seasonally makes Mom happy, I hadn't considered making other changes in stimuli. I assumed she would not like change. And there was a "don't rock the boat" mentality that other caregivers will probably recognize.
One of Mom's routines has been to record in her journal the titles to each song that plays on the Sirius Music Channels through DISH TV. She takes this job seriously, even to the degree that she will sometimes ignore someone who enters her room and peer around them to be sure she records the title correctly. However, DISH TV is expensive, and I've been thinking of discontinuing our service. So at the beginning of last week I pulled out Mom's old stereo/cd player, an unwieldy affair with large speakers and a cassette player. I selected some easy listening and big band music from our extensive collection, loaded the player with three cd's, and pressed repeat.
When I returned a couple of hours later Mom was more animated than she had been for awhile. She has really enjoyed singing along with the familiar tunes, and it's amazing how many of the song titles she can name although they are instrumentals.This small change in Mom's environment has raised her contentment level. She had been calling for me an average of four times a day, and this past week it has only been once or twice each day.
I think music can work magic for many dementia patients. If you can locate recordings of songs the person knew and loved in the past, you can provide them a wonderful cognitive stimulus that may have a positive effect on other areas of functioning as well.
My point in sharing this is not to let fear of upsetting your patient keep you from trying new things. You might be pleasantly surprised.
For many people, hymns offer a wonderful connection to past memories and present faith. There are ten devotions with accompanying hymn suggestions written especially for dementia patients here: http://closertothee.blogspot.com/