No Heat But a Great Connection!

I woke up from an early evening nap this week (don’t judge me) to discover that my house had grown decidedly chilly. 
Poking all the buttons on my shiny new thermostat did not create the desired result. I strained my ears hoping to hear the familiar and comforting sound of the furnace clicking on. Nothing. 
I visited the basement, hoping for a simple solution. I know nothing about furnaces.  Staring at it, touching it, and wishing for it to work – well all it did was leave me as confused and cold as ever. 
My first call was to my neighbor Dave. He is often my first call. When you live alone it’s good to have connections with nice neighbors like Dave. Dave is a nurse, a former pilot, and an all around handy, helpful, heck of a guy. 
Dave brought his flashlight but could only confirm my suspicions. Installed in 1989, my heating unit was now 27 years old - which translates to oh, say, 100 years old in furnace years. 
Next step. I reluctantly, and yet hopefully, placed a call to the company that had replaced my thermostat in the fall and who (in full disclosure) had warned me then that I needed to consider getting a new furnace. 
Within an hour a friendly voice was calling me back. And here’s where it starts to get good. 
“I know you Mary Sue! I met you this summer when we both helped Amber at the music festival.” 
Thanks to my connection with Amber, I had just connected with Jason; fellow musician, and thankfully THE furnace repairman of choice for many of my friends. I could relax now, knowing that Jason was a friend, that he would give me good advice and that he would literally fix my problem. 
I added an extra blanket to my bed and went to sleep. 
The next morning Jason arrived at 8 am. After some discussion, and upon his recommendation, it was agreed that I needed a new furnace. Because of my connection with, and trust in, Jason, this was an easy decision. I’ve never bought a furnace before. Not to be too dramatic here, but working with Jason helped me to feel safe as I navigated this new territory. (Note – that I didn’t say paying for it would be easy!) 
As I left that morning I told Jason I would be in and out throughout the day doing my work singing with seniors. It was then he told me that his mom has Alzheimer’s and that his dad is doing 24-hour care for her. He told me he has taken his guitar there to play for her but that she doesn’t seem interested. I asked what he had been playing and he said “Just nice, easy listening music.” 
Thus began our discussion about how important the right selection of music is when you are trying to use music to connect with a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. 
Jason and I talked about this. When I pointed out that the music that would touch his mom needed to be music from her youth, he quickly realized he could ask his dad or look up what the hits were during her younger days. A simple Google search can lead to lists of hits from every decade. Jason can find out what music was played at their wedding and think back to his own childhood. Did they sing in the car as a family? Are there songs of faith that are meaningful to his mom? 
This chain of events got me to thinking about how important these connections are in our lives. 
Those of us not living with memory loss can easily take this ability to connect for granted. 
For people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the inability to connect through language and “normal” every day interactions is perhaps the most cruel impact of the disease. It can leave care partners feeling helpless and everyone feeling isolated. 
This is a story about how one connection led to another and then another. Through simple conversations and through music, there were numerous positive outcomes. 
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are affecting millions of people. 

Is there someone you can connect with to spread the word about the power of music? Do you want to learn more? Connect with me on my website for more resources. 
Mary Sue Wilkinson is the author of “Songs You Know By Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care”. The book includes contributions from leading dementia care specialist Teepa Snow and Mary Sue’s recording of 18 favorite sing along songs. Available on as well as on her website Her E –Book “Finding Memories through Music: A Family Interview” is available on her website.