Cho­rus helps de­men­tia pa­tients, care­givers build com­mu­nity and self-es­teem

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

In a base­ment room at St. Peter’s Church in mid­town Man­hat­tan, Dale Lamb jabbed two fin­gers in the air in time with the mu­sic as he made eye con­tact with his singers. Some were in wheel­chairs; one dozed peace­fully. Peo­ple laughed as much as they sang.

“I can do any­thing bet­ter than you,” Lamb sang, as he led the women through the show­stop­per from the 1946 Broad­way mu­si­cal “An­nie Get Your Gun.” The men re­sponded gamely: “No, you can’t!”

Lamb, a mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor and singer, has led choral groups for much of his ca­reer, but none quite like the Un­for­get­ta­bles, a cho­rus for peo­ple with de­men­tia and their care­givers started by Mary Mit­tel­man, direc­tor of NYU Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Re­lated De­men­tias Fam­ily Sup­port Pro­gram.

Lamb first ac­cepted a three- week pay­ing gig in 2011 to help lead the newly formed choir, but he de­cided to keep com­ing and grew at­tached to the group.

“This is just a fab­u­lous gift. I don’t know how I could do with­out it,” said choir mem­ber Bar­bara Ram­sey, an ac­tress and singer whose hus­band, Jack Naughton, also a per­former, was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia.

The choir helps pro­vide a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity for care­givers such as Ram­sey, who often feel de­spair and iso­la­tion. The ben­e­fits ex­tend to the pa­tients, as well. Per­form­ing mu­sic to­gether in­creases their self-es­teem and can lessen ag­i­ta­tion, Mit­tel­man said. The only re­quire­ment for singers is that they com­mit to at­tend­ing all the re­hearsals and per­for­mances.

“What we learned is that peo­ple in the early and mid stages of de­men­tia can learn new songs,” she said.

BUCK EN­NIS/CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSI­NESS

Dale Lamb leads the Un­for­get­ta­bles dur­ing a re­cent re­hearsal.

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