Movie, music help couple connect through dementia's cloud
Posted October 28, 2013
When his wife's memory started to fade, Reuben Ewert, of Durham, fought back.
"I attacked it this way. I attacked it by researching it," he said.
Reuben was determined to live up to his vow of "til death do us part." He and Evelyn grew up together and married in 1955.
"We've known each other since there was an each other," he said.
They spent most of their lives as traveling evangelists.
But as they aged, it became clear that Evelyn was having memory problems. "She forgot responsibilities that she had," he said.
Until one day, she wandered off, and he realized just how bad her problem had become. "I remember that night she leaned on the counter, and she just sobbed for a half hour," he said.
Evelyn now lives at a Durham County nursing home where Reuben spends most of his time caring for his wife and trying different tacks to beat her Alzheimer's disease.
His research led him to a documentary, "Alive Inside," and the story of a man named Henry. When introduced to music the formerly introverted Henry became alert and coherent.
"Alive Inside" documents the effects of the Music & Memory program. Caregivers are trained to use iPods to treat patients with dementia. Personalized playlists of musical favorites have been shown to tap into the memories of some people, helping them with communication and socialization.
Evelyn has started using the program. Before she was aggressive and was unable to form coherent thoughts.
Now, social worker Joe Winston said, she's been able to go off the prescription anti-psychotics she was taking, and she is able to answer questions from Reuben.
A rough version of "Alive Inside" will be screened in Durham Tuesday, at Croasdaile Village, 2600 Croasdaile Farm Parkway, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and at 5 p.m. at Duke Regional Hospital, 3643 N. Roxboro Road.
The screenings are free, but due to limited seating, organizers ask that people register via email to Melanie Moog at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who would like to volunteer to help with Music & Memory can also email Moog.
Music In My Mind Partnership in Durham is organizing the screenings, and they will accept iPod donations at each event.