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'You can feel the love': Local Alzheimer's patients find their voice through song

Unique choir helps dementia, Alzheimer’s patients create music
Posted at 11:57 AM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 19:48:29-04

MILWAUKEE — An Alzheimer's Chorus based in Milwaukee is getting national attention. "Amazing Grace" Chorus is made up of people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

Joanne Pier's husband Bill has Alzheimer's disease. The couple met Steve Mays, who also has the disease, at practice a couple years ago. Now the trio carpools to practice.

"I provide his transportation, but he provides a whole lot of help for me with Bill," Joanne Pier said.

Sometimes Mays doesn't remember what he did the day before until Pier reminds him.

"It comes and goes," Mays said.

Mays does know he loves being part of The "Amazing Grace" Chorus Program, though.

"It's fun and the love, you can feel the love around here. It's very nice," Mays said.

Stephanie Houston with the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute said the chorus helps improve participants quality of life.

"This is an opportunity to bring that individual back into the community and be able to be stimulated in a very creative way," Stephanie Houston said.

She said music is therapeutic.

"It helps with mood. It helps with language, and because we are doing a lot of interacting action, so mobility as well," Houston said.

The chorus sings jazz, contemporary gospel, and great American classics.

"We really try to make sure that we are integrating songs that many times will bring back those memories for participants," Houston said.

The Milwaukee chorus is part of a National Alzheimer's Campaign focusing on the impact it has on women.

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute said women in their 60's are twice as likely as men to get Alzheimer's. Sixty percent of caregivers are women, like Joanne who doesn't miss a beat.

"Gives joy, provides an uplift," Pier said.

It's free to join the chorus. You can contact Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute Regional Milwaukee Office at 414-219-5127 or e-mail the Senior Outreach Specialist at SLHOUSTON@WISC.EDU.

Upcoming performances:
July 3- 12pm-4pm - Seniorfest Day at Summerfest
August 4- 2pm - Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

To find more information and resources about Alzheimer's go to www.wai.wisc.edu