34 Songs About Alzheimer's and Dementia
The Long Goodbye: There's Big Trouble with Granny
Big trouble has been brewing with Granny for years, and everyone knows that it's getting worse. Her doctors call it "mild to moderate cognitive impairment." Behaviorally, we see a terse and confused 86-year-old woman who sometimes picks up the television remote when the phone rings.
Granny can't be left alone because she gives away sensitive information over the phone to anyone who asks—her banking and credit card numbers, social security number, whatever people ask for. She forgets to eat, makes lewd comments that would shame most grown men, and suspects that someone is stealing from her, planning against her, or both.
My cousin and I were befuddled when Granny "introduced" us to one another recently. We clearly knew one another, but did she? Dementia can be difficult on families as well as the person diagnosed.
If your family is struggling with a dementia diagnosis, consider making a playlist of these pop, rock, and country songs that pay tribute to patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia as well as the families who support them in their journey. Many of these songs exhibit great empathy. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this struggle.
1. "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" by Glen Campbell
Known as country music's Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell spent five decades in the music business and won both a Grammy Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2011, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. This poignant autobiographical song from 2014 tugs at the heartstrings as it fittingly describes his receding memory: "I'm still here, but yet I'm gone."
Unfortunately, the singer's family has been embroiled in internal battles over his care, and he is in the end stages of the disease, living in a memory care facility. Although an internet hoax reported his death in May 2017, he actually died in August 2017.
2. "While He Still Knows Who I Am" by Kenny Chesney
This 2012 country song will leave a lump in your throat. The narrator returns home with intentions of trying to visit and reconnect with his father who is battling dementia:
I'm going back to see him
While he still knows
Who I am.
Have you personally known someone with dementia?
3. "When You Were Superman" by Massive Dog
On some level, every child believes that his or her parents are invulnerable. Dementia shatters that ideal.
This touching pop song from 2014 features a narrator who fondly recalls his father's previous superhero status. The narrator juxtaposes memories of his own growing up, having his dad teach him skills like reading and tying his shoes with his father’s current loss of them.
The son wishes he could restore his father’s vigor and vitality by finding out who holds the kryponite, and he's sad that
Superman can’t save the world anymore.
He’s fading fast, but
You’ll always be Superman to me.
Please Share Your Wisdom in the Comments Section Below
If you are a family member of someone with dementia, what advice or words of wisdom and support can you give to others who are new to the journey?
4. "Afire Love" by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran's grandfather battled Alzheimer's Disease for 20 years before it claimed his life in 2013. This 2014 pop song describes Sheeran's memories of growing up with a grandfather who lost the ability to recognize even those who were close to him. It also tenderly portrays the love between his grandparents.
5. "Faces of Stone" by David Gilmour
In this 2015 alternative rock song, an old couple walks, arm in arm. The woman suffers from memory problems and vividly recalls stories from both her youth and childhood home by the sea. She doesn't understand that she is not walking with the lover from her younger years.
6. "Doing The Right Thing" by Daughter
The narrator of this 2016 alternative rock song laments the inevitability of growing old. He reflects on the biological purpose of our lives as reproduction, merely perpetuating ourselves.
After we serve that austere purpose, eventually one loses the people he loves, his purpose, and perhaps his mind:
I have lost my children
I have lost my love
I just sit in silence
Let the pictures soak
Out of televisions
Out of televisions… .
7. "Where've You Been?" by Kathy Mattea
This moving 1989 country song won a Grammy Award for good reason. It was written by the singer's husband regarding his own grandparents' lifetime love affair and a moment they shared towards the end of their lives.
Three different meanings of the question, "Where've you been?" are reflected in the song. The first depicts the couple as young lovers, with the woman asking her new flame where he's been all her life. In the second scenario, they are a married couple, and she is thankful to see him when he returns home late from work in the midst of a bad storm.
In the last scenario, the lifetime partners have been married 60 years but are now resigned to living in a care facility on different floors. The wife experiences dementia. She
... soon lost her memory, forgot the names of family
She never spoke a word again
Then one day they wheeled him in ... .
8. "I Miss Her" by Jessie J
Addressing God, the narrator in this 2013 pop song describes a relative who is an empty shell of her former self, as her mind has been ravaged by dementia. Watching her loved one slip away mentally, the narrator asks God for help and healing. She misses her relative even though she is still here.
9. "Veronica" Elvis Costello
If you have a loved one with dementia like I do, it is bittersweet to compare what they used to be to what they have become. The singer wrote this 1989 rock song about his grandmother with Alzheimer's and her "terrifying moments of lucidity."
Veronica, the old woman in the song, now seems to exist in a dream state or perhaps she is is hiding from reality. The narrator refers to her youth, when her mind was carefree and she carried a devilish look in her eye. Those days have long disappeared, however.
10. "Silent House" by Dixie Chicks
The woman at the center of this 2006 country song has sadly forgotten many of the parts of her life that made it unique and remarkable. Her relative, the narrator, takes a good look at all of the family photographs, handmade objects, clothing, books, and personal items that belong to the ailing woman and now fill up the family home. The younger woman then promises to take these items and try to connect them, thus carrying on the old woman's memories and spirit.
11. "Unraveling" by Liz Longley
The grandaughter of a dementia patient struggles with her grief in this pop song from 2013. She is left with boxes and baskets of her grandmother's treasured items, but the old woman's memory is failing:
She looks in my eyes and asks me my name
Every five minutes I tell her the same.
She smiles, but it's cold and dead
And I'm screaming out loud in my head.
10 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Memory loss affecting job skills and daily function
Problems with abstract thinking
Difficulty performing familiar tasks such as following a recipe, driving to a famiiar location, or remembering the rules to a favorite game
Misplacing things, such as putting items in inappropriate places
Problems with language, such as forgetting simple words or substituting the wrong word
Changes in mood and behavior, such as rapid mood swings for no known reason
Disorientation of time and location
Personality changes, such as becoming suspicious, fearful, or confused
Poor or inappropriate judgment
Loss of initiative, including passivity and requiring prompting to act
12."Vanishing Mind" by Calexico
This alternative rock song from 2012 fittingly describes dementia as the "vanishing mind." With its references to sealed rooms and waiting in hallways, it envokes images of nursing homes and reminds us that it's challenging to understand someone when there is nothing left to remember them.
13. "Forever Changed" by Carrie Underwood
Nothing ever stays the same. This 2012 country song depicts the life changes that forever marked the life of her grandmother: falling in love, becoming a mother, and now, as her life memories fade away in old age, Alzheimer's.
14. "The Locket" by Lauren Alaina
In this 2011 country song, a thoughtful grandaughter tries to prompt her grandmother to recall personally significant memories. Decades before, the old woman had been given a heart-shaped locket by her beau, the man she married and had a family with. She promised never to take it off. However, now she gifts the locket to the grandaughter, saying it's time to head on home to the boy in the locket.
15. "Raymond" by Brett Eldredge
The singer was inspired to write this 2010 country tune because his grandmother had Alzheimer's. In the song, a young man works at a nursing home. One of the patients he serves routinely mistakes him for her long-dead son, Raymond, who was killed while serving in the Vietnam War.
Famous People with Alzheimer's and Other Forms of Dementia
Casey Kasem, from American Top 40 Count Down fame and voice of "Shaggy" in Scooby Doo
Sugar Ray Robinson, champion boxer
David Cassidy, former teen idol, musician, and actor, famous for The Partridge Family
Gene Wilder, comic actor
Margaret Thatcher, first female Prime Minister of Britain
Robin Williams, actor and comedian
Rita Hayworth, dancer, pin-up, and film star
Rosa Parks, mother of the Civil RIghts movement who refused to give up her bus seat
Abigail Van Buren, advice columnist known as "Dear Abby"
Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President
Norman Rockwell, painter of American nostalgia
E.B. White, author of "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web"
Sargent Shriver, politician and activist who organized the Peace Corps, founded Job Corps and Head Start
Glen Campbell, pop and country music artist
Charlton Heston, actor and political activist
Malcolm Young, guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American transcendental poet
Pat Summitt, NCAA women's basketball coach
16. "I Know Who He Is" by "William Michael Morgan
Not wanting to give in to the reality that his father is going downhill as a result of his battle with dementia, the man in this 2016 country song tells the doctor that he will remember for him. He sees his dad the way he used to be, even as changes have taken their heartwrenching toll:
Looking right through me is not at all the way I see him
I don’t mind at all remembering for him
He doesn’t have to get why I adore him
He don’t have to know me; I know who he is.
17. "Sometimes" by Charlie McGettigan
This talented Irish singer contributes a touching 2010 country song about a man who visits a longtime friend with Alzheimer's. The ailing friend cannot remember important people if his life or other details about his past. Naturally, it's painful for his friend to watch him frustrated and struggling with memories that are forever slipping away.
18. "The Way" by Fastball
A chart-topper from 1998, this rock song is about an elderly married couple who decide to pack their suitcases and leave their lives, driving away on an unannounced road trip. The song is a romanticized depiction of a real couple from Texas, Lela and Raymond Howard, who were both in their eighties. Lela suffered from Alzheimer's and Raymond was recovering from brain surgery when they set out for a nearby festival 15 miles from home.
The real couple was sadly found dead in their car at the bottom of a ravine 500 miles away only two weeks after their road trip began. However, this song imagines them setting off on a highway adventure, happy, carefree, and forever young.
Toll-Free Helpline - Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) 1-866-232-8484
19. "From His Window" by John Smith
Dedicated to his father who died from Alzheimer's, this bittersweet 1998 song describes an old man who doesn't know what day it is and doesn't speak much anymore. The disease has taken that from him.
His son, however, reflects on the man his father used to be. His dad now looks out on the world from his window—the windows at his nursing home and the car window when his son comes to take him on drives.
20. "Forget To Remember" by Megadeth
If you doubted that a hard rock song could also be poignant, then you haven't listened to this 2013 song. The narrator addresses a loved one with dementia and describes the long goodbye.
Even More Songs About Alzheimer's and Dementia
23. She Misses Him
24. She Remembers Love
26. I Will Remind You
28. I Left That Body Long Ago
29. Moving Oleta
30. I'm Not Me
31. Remember Me
32. I'm Not Me Anymore
34. Blank Stares
Questions & Answers
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