Durham program tackles dementia with music as therapy; Here's how the disease impacts Hispanics

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, October 27, 2023
Durham program uses music to tackle dementia
The Durham Center for Senior Life has an adult day program that has many activities for participants, one of which is Motown in Motion.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- At 97 years old, Gloria Morales has trouble remembering some things, but moving to the beat of music isn't one of them.

The Durham Center for Senior Life has an adult day program that has many activities for its participants. One of the activities is Motown in Motion. It's designed to bring back memories for those suffering with memory loss.

The majority of participants there have dementia including Morales.

"She tells me my mind is so lost," said her son-in-law Manual Gonzalez. "What do you say to that? I'm very sorry this is happening to her. Sometimes I get angry."

Her daughter and son-in-law are her caretakers. Watching her decline over the years has been incredibly painful. For this Puerto Rican family food is a big part of the culture, but the family matriarch can't cook anymore. Instead, she finds peace crocheting. Her facial expression shows the solace it brings her. The person they've known all these years slowly fading away before their eyes.

"It's pressure when you're being asked the same thing 16 times in less than half an hour," said Carmen Alvarez, Morales' daughter.

According to the Alzheimer's Association of North Carolina, 13% of Hispanic people who are 65 or older have Alzheimer's or dementia. While they are one and a half times more likely than white people to develop the disease more research is needed to understand why. That's why music and memory programs like this are especially helpful.

"Music brings you joy. It makes you smile. Makes you move. Music is therapy for many people," said Seanyea Rains Lewis, executive director of Durham Center for Senior Life. "There's a lot of chair fitness. Keeps heart rate up. It's engaging. Keeps you socializing and talking to your neighbor.

According to her, music is healing. She told ABC11 it takes people back to a certain time and place in their life.

It's also a good break for caretakers like Carmen and Manuel who have loved ones in the adult day program there. They want the best care for Gloria in her final years.

"Taking care of her is not an obligation. It's a privilege," said Alvarez.

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