Carol Howell Talks Dementia: Dementia, Rhythm, and Babies

Music and rhythm have always been a part of our lives. This is true for EVERY person who ever lived. That may surprise you, but let me explain. Once you understand this truth, you will begin to understand why music is so important to babies, and you will understand why music remains important even when the diagnosis is dementia.

The first rhythm we ever felt was the beating of our own heart. Music came to life about twenty-two days after conception. Cells divided, the heart was formed, and the fetus experienced rhythm for the first time. “Ba dum…ba dum…ba dum.” The beautiful sound of a baby’s heartbeat.

The first rhythmic sound we ever heard was not “Rock A Bye Baby,” or our mother humming a calming tune. It was not a song from the radio or a sound from the mobile that hung over our crib. Instead, the very first sound we all heard was the beating of our mother’s heart. This rhythm became so ingrained in our mind, and at such an early age, that our cries carried the same sound rhythmic sound pattern as our mother’s speech. Isn’t that amazing? In music, this rhythm is referred to as the “female beat.” It is steady, consistent, calming, soothing, dependable. The male beat, on the other hand, is faster, more intense, and purposefully working towards a goal.

When babies are upset, the simple process of placing their head on their mother’s chest will bring the sound of the heartbeat directly to their ear. It can calm a child like no other activity. Fast forward to the world in which dementia is now ruling, and we discover the same wonderful effects of music and the female rhythm.

No matter the stage of dementia, we know music, rhythm, prayer, poetry, Scripture reading, and many other art forms can bring a dependable pulse. We experience the “Ba dum…ba dum…ba dum” we first heard in the womb. It is calming. It reduces stress. It decreases agitation. It lessens the chances of wandering. It has no harmful side effects. It is AMAZING!

Hope that gives you Something to Ponder.


Photo by El Gringo via Flickr

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