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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Alive Inside

I want to tell you about an amazing must-see documentary called, “Alive Inside,” that shows how music can reawaken Alzheimer’s patients at almost every stage of the disease and give them back a sense of self.

The film follows Dan Cohen, the executive director of Music & Memory, who in 2006, volunteered to create individual musical play-lists for residents of a nursing home in New York. Most of the individuals he worked with were in late stages of Alzheimer’s. Many sat all day in a comatose-like state. Dan discovered that when they listened to music that was specifically tailored to their taste, history and background, they came to life, becoming more coherent and interactive, often for the first time in months or years.

While music was also made available to patients with other illnesses, it is the Alzheimer’s patients who steal the show. Grab a tissue and watch the inspiring trailer here.

The woman at the end of the trailer is also an Alzheimer’s sufferer. She reminds me of Mom, someone who, when you see her is still very much a participant in the world, at least from the outside. Inside, however, her world is collapsing, her conversation is tangled, and her ability to interface with others is diminishing.

Watch this inspiring journey of reawakening. It will change your opinion on caring for the chronically ill.

Music restores Mom’s sense of joy. I see it every time we are together. When we sing, Mom’s memory is active, and she derives so much pleasure from it. Mom listens to music almost every night before she goes to sleep. She conducts symphonies and sings along to musicals; she relives the 60s with The Beatles and The Beach Boys; she swings to Big Band, and sways to soulful Klezmer and Yiddish classics.

This morning, as a way to ease the tension Mom feels in getting dressed, we put on the Beatles and sang along as we surreptitiously gave her some assistance. Plus, we managed to coax her into letting us cut her toe nails. What unwanted intimacy this disease brings. Every time Mom objected to our intervention, I loudly sang out the music that was playing, calling her attention, too, to the songs she knows by heart.

Another movie that shows how active care of Alzheimer’s patients makes a difference is “Living and Loving with Alzheimer’s.” It’s in Hebrew (without subtitles), and follows the care of one man, Micha, and the programs his wife arranges for him in his long-term care facility. (Thanks, Regina, for sending me the link.)

Bottom line: you don’t have to stop thinking and learning and laughing if you have Alzheimer’s. You don’t have to sit quietly in a corner and give up. Life is still happening, and together, we can love and live and experience joy.

Much like music can change the mood of an Alzheimer's patient, so the sun can transform cucumbers into pickles. It is as easy as sealing a jar with cucumbers in brine and leaving it to stand all day in the sun. Then, voila, pickles!

Sun Pickles

Thanks to our friend Robert for this fabulously easy recipe. If, like my family, you like your pickles salty, add an extra tablespoon to the jar before you close it. These pickles come out crunchy and mild.

2-quart see-through container (plastic works well)

12-14 small to medium cucumbers

3 cloves garlic sliced

4-5 sprigs of dill

Peppercorns (optional)

3-4 Tbsp salt

3 Tbsp sugar


White vinegar (¼ parts vinegar to the amount of water)


Pack cucumbers in container by tilting the jar and wedging them all in. Add garlic, dill, salt, pepper. Add vinegar first and eye-ball it to about 1/4 of the jar. Fill the rest with water. (You can also up the ratio to 1/3 parts vinegar to make it more vinegary.) Close lid tightly. Shake to dissolve sugar and salt. Place jar in a sunny spot in the morning (best before 12:00 p.m.) and leave in direct sunlight all day. As the sun goes down, collect jar and put in refrigerator. Let cool overnight.

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