But she says that fear of those late-stage declines can prevent us from helping our loved one make the most of the days when they are still able to spend time with family and friends, enjoy activities, and be part of the wider world.
Powell is the director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics in New York and her expertise includes dementia treatment and end of life care.
Powell’s own grandmother and mother died from dementia. In her research, she came across a phrase that resonated with her: Every remaining day should be a good day.
“I love the sound of that,” she says.
Here are seven ways you can help your loved one with dementia find joy in their remaining days:
1. Look forward, not back
So many people are grieving the loss of the person their loved one used to be. “We think, ‘This is so terrible, my mother is no longer a great mathematician,’” Powell says.
As difficult as it is, you need to try to accept that your loved one isn’t the person they once were and try to embrace who they are, she says.
When you’re focused on who your loved one used to be, you can inadvertently shame them. If you say things like, “That’s not like you,” or “You don’t need help with that” you can end up embarrassing your loved one, she says.
2. Think beyond safety
When your loved one is in the earlier stages of dementia, you may think they can safely stay home alone. But safety isn’t the only concern. Your loved one might be spending hours staring out the window or watching TV.
“Family members get into denial and don’t want to address the fact that it’s not really okay to leave them home alone all day,” Powell says.
You don’t necessarily have to look at residential placements. Your loved one could get out and do things with other people in a day program a couple of times a week, she says.
3. Get care for other medical conditions
To help people with dementia get the most out of every day, it’s important to make sure other medical conditions are well controlled.
A family member or companion might need to accompany your loved one to medical appointments.
That’s because a person with dementia might not accurately report problems. They may forget that they fell recently, or not notice that they are getting out of breath more easily than they used to.
And, a person with dementia might forget what the doctor says. If their doctor changes their medication, for example, they need to remember to both stop the old prescriptions and start the new ones.
“They need someone to be external memory for them,” Powell says.
4. Boost joy with good food
“Food is often one of the last remaining pleasures,” Powell says. Plus, food can be an important part of family celebrations and culture. She feels that as people with dementia age, it’s time to lighten up on the food rules.
“If I’m 94 and have dementia, I don’t really care about my cholesterol,” she says. “I want to order up an ice cream sundae if I feel like it.”
“When you’re younger and worried about protecting your cognition, I think it’s appropriate [to make healthy food choices],” she says. “Once [dementia] is moderate to severe I would not overly restrict. I think then you can make some tradeoffs.”
5. Help them keep moving
“Exercise is one of the few things that everybody agrees helps prevent speeding of cognitive delays,” Powell says. “And it’s another way to get that happy feeling.”
An intensive care doctor has written an honest book about her experiences.
NONE OF US want to end up in intensive care. But if we do, we should hope we end up with a doctor like Aoife Abbey.
The UK-based Irish doctor has written a book about what it is like being an intensive care doctor, exploring the emotional moments she has experienced. It’s a book that might just change how you think about death – and how you talk to your family about it.
After reading the book, Seven Signs of Life, you’ll want to sit down with your nearest and dearest to discuss what might happen to you should end up needing intensive care. Talking about death or serious illness is a taboo that still persists, but Dublin-born Abbey – who is in her mid-thirties – wants us to confront it.
“I appreciate people need to talk about death more because what I often say is, people come into intensive care, they don’t know they’re going to be there – it’s a surprise to everybody, they’ve had an accident or something,” she explains. “And you say to their family ‘what do you think they would have wanted?’ And the answer is ‘God, I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it.’ Why would you?”
This avoidance can lead to big questions being unanswered. “How would the patient feel about risking being alive and not being able to talk, how would they feel about organ donation? There’s lots of things people don’t discuss, and I think we need to discuss them more,” says Abbey, who graduated from the University of Warwick in 2011.
She advises people to have those difficult conversations with loved ones. “But what I would say is that it can often be difficult to imagine yourself in situations, so people might say ‘oh I would hate to have dementia. I’d rather just drop off.’,” she cautions. “When actually they don’t know that it’s true, because they’re not in that situation. So I think we have to be careful when we have conversations about life and death and what you’d like, in that we’re having general conversations and that we’re still not trying to pigeonhole people into certain decisions.”
Because often people will say ‘I would hate to live this way’ but actually then find an amount of joy and contentment living that way in the end because they have no other option. It is a difficult conversation.
“I guess in Ireland there’s always that thing of people say ‘don’t tempt fate’,” she says. Abbey and her family have had to deal with serious illness themselves. Her brother, Aaron, was a disability rights campaigner and died in October 2018. He was in and out of hospital a lot while the siblings were growing up.
“I’ve certainly had encounters where people have been frightened for me to tell their loved one that they are dying. And not just because they were worried that it would upset them emotionally, which is a very valid worry and I would worry the same thing,” says Abbey.
Because they would feel like that would mean they would die quicker. That crops up quite a lot, people say don’t tell them, because they’ll just give up.
‘It’s routine… until it isn’t’
The book was inspired by anonymous columns Abbey wrote for the British Medical Association, and the stories of the patients in the book are anonymised and amalgamated.
“I always loved intensive care and I loved it because there’s a lot of science there, you get to be specific, you get to care about the numbers,” says Abbey. “You have a lot of facilities, you know the nursing to patient ratio is one to one or one to two, you have all the numbers in front of you, everything is quite scientific.”
At the same time, this is juxtaposed against “the massive uncertainty of not knowing what somebody’s outcome is going to be”.
The level of pressure and responsibility builds the longer you work in intensive care.
There’s always an opportunity to ask for help. You learn as you go along and that’s how we do it, so it was never the case where I had to walk into an ICU and make loads of decisions.
She says that like everything in medicine, “all of this stuff is routine until it isn’t”. Indeed, in the book she details times when things did not go to plan. “If you intubate 100 patients and 99 of them are perfect, easy … it’s the one that’s difficult that’s the issue. So most things are routine, there’s always the potential for it not to be.”
When it comes to errors, the onus is on the doctor to make sure they learn from it.
“There’s nothing that makes you learn more than making a mistake,” she says. “You’re unlikely to ever do it again.”
The main thing is there is a culture, and it’s the right culture, where we don’t blame people when they make mistakes. And we’re supposed to recognise it’s a systems failure, and there’s lots of different explanations for why things go wrong, and it’s rarely one person’s issue; one person’s fault. But at the same time you have to figure out ways as a doctor to still accept and be OK with the fact also that you did make a mistake.
She includes in the book an incident where she missed something on a chest x-ray. It must have been nerve-wracking to write about when she first included it in a Secret Doctor blog post.
“It is still in numbers their most read blog. So it’s … I’m not going to say vindicated but there’s a need for that kind of discussion and people clearly had an interest or it struck a chord with them.”
She has never worked with the HSE, and describes the NHS as something that’s very much woven into national identity in the UK. “You have this service that’s free at the point of care, and people are very proud of it. It’s a very emotive topic,” she says, noting that “it doesn’t matter how angry the media is with the NHS at a given point, patients that I see behave the same. Most of them they are grateful, they’re frightened, they’re scared – they are just people, they are separate from political issues.”
Speaking of political issues, the big one for NHS workers and Irish emigrants like Abbey is Brexit. “If I wasn’t from Ireland I would have a huge amount of uncertainty and I’d be very worried,” she says. “You don’t really know what’s going on. You take so much for granted.”
But it’s not something that she lets take over her work. “I think you just learn to be very focused on what you’re doing. You have to let things in in the moment or else you’re not human, and you can’t engage with someone who’s being very emotional with you with a wall in front of you, because it’s not human and it’s not very nice for them either.”
She has learned to talk to her colleagues and friends about things that affect her, and not keep it bottled up. This is her eighth year in training, and in August 2020 she’ll be able to pursue a consultant job.
In the book she details very tender and emotional moments, such as when a dying man asks her to lift his head up so he can talk to her properly. It’s those intimate moments that leave an impact on her.
“There’s things you get exposed to but I guess in the moment it’s so much about what that person is feeling, you do feel a little bit humbled by the fact that you’re able to give them anything,” she says.
Because they’re going through something that is horrible. And you put it aside until you get home, or until you close the door of the room.
Seven Signs of Life is out now, published by Penguin Random House.
Fifty years ago, a physician was admitted to the hospital with stomach cancer. He wrote down in his own medical chart that he did not want CPR or to be connected to a breathing machine. His wishes were disregarded — he underwent CPR numerous times and was connected to a breathing machine until he died. Back then, not only were people treated in ways they did not want, many patients were also arbitrarily denied potentially lifesaving therapies.
Doctors decided who deserved to live or not: In one New York hospital, doctors put purple stickers on the charts of patients they determined would not receive CPR or other similar measures without the patients’ or their families’ knowledge. Decisions about life and death were subjective and opaque.
End of life care has considerably improved since then. Patient preferences now help direct physicians and nurses about what type of care they would want to receive. But 50 years into the future, we will look back on today and conclude that medicine was sorely lacking when it came to how we handle death.
Many in medicine, as well as patients and caregivers, continue to equate more procedures, more chemotherapy, and more intensive care with better care. Studies in patients with cancer and heart disease, the two greatest killers of mankind, show that patients receiving palliative care, which is an approach that focuses on quality rather than quantity of life, can actually live longer. While the goal of palliative care is to help people with a serious illness live as well as possible — physically, emotionally and spiritually — rather than as long as possible, some people receiving palliative care might also live longer since they avoid the complications associated with procedures, medications, and hospitalization
In addition, while medical advances have moved forward at blinding pace, the ethical discourse surrounding many technologies has not kept up. Take, for example, cardiac devices such as pacemakers and mechanical pumps that can be placed in the heart. Many patients with terminal illnesses who want to deactivate these devices find resistance from the health system, since some continue to equate deactivating them with euthanasia. We need to continue to make sure that even as technological advances blossom, patients remain at the center, and physicians continue to honor their wishes.
And while the palliative care specialty has greatly improved end-of-life care, too often, palliative care has been used as a way to avoid the culture change needed by all medical specialties to better handle death. Despite its many benefits, many patients and physicians are scared of “palliative care” because of its strong association with the end of life. Some have been compelled to change the title of their practices to “supportive care.” To many patients, the very name “palliative” implies that they will be abandoned, making them very reluctant to accept their services. The fact is that palliative care can, and should, be delivered to patients with serious illness alongside conventional care.
But the issues go beyond the name — one recent study showed that palliative care-led meetings with families of patients in intensive care units led to an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among family members. Palliative care specialists are often consulted in tense situations when patients are critically ill, and they often have no prior relationship with patients or their families, who might be unprepared to have serious discussions with them. That’s why most of these difficult conversations should be delivered by the doctors and surgeons primarily responsible for treating the patients. One study estimated that by 2030, the ratio between palliative care specialists and eligible patients will be 1 to 26,000. Palliative care specialists cannot be entirely responsible for end-of-life care by themselves.
To emerge on the right side of history, the entire culture of medicine needs to be turned around. End-of-life care is not just palliative care’s business. It is everyone’s business, from emergency room doctors to primary care physicians. Physicians need to abandon outdated ideas that their role as healers is incompatible with helping patients die comfortably and on their own terms. Helping patients die well is as important as helping them live to the fullest.
She died at home, but it wasn’t the romantic scene found in movies, where the family held her hand and she simply closed her eyes. In reality, there was a night when she had diarrhea 12 times. In reality, every time she had to be moved she was in pain. This was how a caregiver described caring for her mother as she died at home to social scientists studying end-of-life decision-making.
In a new study, Jacquelyn Benson, assistant professor of human development and family science at the University of Missouri, found that home deaths can be physically and emotionally challenging, especially for caregivers.
“The realities of a home death experience present challenges for family members, especially those with limited resources and social support,” Benson said. “It is important that people understand that home death does not automatically equate a good death.”
In recent decades, there has been a groundswell of social movements championing the ideal of dying at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, home deaths in the U.S. increased nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2014, while deaths in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care communities dropped.
To study how home deaths might impact caregivers, Benson along with fellow MU researchers Benyamin Schwarz, Ruth Brent Tofle and Debra Parker Oliver, captured stories from caregivers to identify common themes surrounding the experiences of home deaths. Through the in-depth interviews, the researchers uncovered several themes that exposed the challenges that are often not included in conversations about dying at home. In some cases, challenges arose because there was uncertainty for the decision maker, and some caregivers were not prepared for making decisions regarding the end of a loved one’s life.
The researchers also found that financial resources and strong relationships can help in differentiating good deaths from bad ones. Researchers found that the “good” death experiences involved high levels of emotional support for the dying individuals and the caregivers, and that the place of death played less of a role.
“A few well-known sayings about home are relevant to our findings,” Benson said. “For instance, many people believe there is ‘no place like home,’ which suggests the physical space we call home is paramount when it comes to our comfort. However, another saying, ‘home is where the heart is’ suggests that the essence of home can be replicated in less familiar spaces. When making end-of-life decisions it is important to remember that death can be quite gruesome and that it might be easier on both the dying individual and the caregiver to make a plan that carries the concept of ‘home’ to wherever they might be.”
“The motivations and consequences of dying at home: family caregiver perspectives,” was published in a special issue of the Journal of Housing for the Elderly on Environments of Dying, Death, and Caregiving at End-of-Life. Benson served as guest editor for this special issue.
In the next installment of our occasional series Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton spoke with hospice nurse Lori Carter. Carter has been a hospice nurse for 20 years. She said for her and for many of the hospice nurses she knows, the work is a calling. She said some of what she does is straight-up nursing — managing pain, dressing wounds, and addressing symptoms of end-stage disease. But the most subtle part of the job is helping families navigate one of the most intimate and emotional times of their lives.
LOFTON: For you, when you think about hospice and the work that you do and being called to it, what does that mean exactly to you?
CARTER: Just being with the patient and the family in the most emotional time of their life. Helping them give each other that last act of love. I appreciate and I feel honored that I am with that patient and that family during that time.
LOFTON: So some people, and I’ve heard especially in Appalachia, can have preconceived notions about what hospice is and what you actually do exactly. Explain to me what you do. What happens when you go into a home for the first time and how does that relationship form?
CARTER: Well, depending on, you know, what is going on with the patient and how early or late in the disease trajectory that we get them, you introduce yourself and…you listen. The big thing is you listen…You can find out f there is struggle already between what is happening with the patient and how the family is dealing with that. Of course, you know, we treat any symptoms that the patient has. I mean, my job I feel is [to be] the patient advocate and just trying to palliate those symptoms that they have inside [so] that they are comfortable.
I find out, you know, is there any things that they want to do before they die? You know, what are they able to do? And I try to facilitate that in any way that I can. I have a bag of ramps in my car right now, [in] that a patient wanted some ramps. I knew that would be the last time he got to eat ramps, so I went and dug some up.
LOFTON: Some people think of hospice as giving up so, to speak. When you hear that what is your reaction to that?
CARTER: I think it’s very sad. You know, we all are going to die. We all are. And, you know, normally the patients that we get — they have already fought for a very long time. This is the last act of love that you can give and, you know, it’s going to happen whether hospice is there or not. And they are most certainly not giving up. I mean, they’re getting ready to go down a path that they’ve never been down either.
LOFTON: Has this work changed how you think about death?
CARTER: It most certainly has. My family was not the type that, you know, went to funerals all the time…I came into hospice blind, really. And I quickly learned that it is a special experience. You have to believe that quality of life is better than quantity.
And I tell you how I cope with things is I will walk into a home, and I will look…there’s always pictures on the walls of, you know, families. And I will look at those. I always do. And I can see what that patient looked like, and how robust they were, and how happy they were. And then I see the patient now, and that actually helps me know what I need to do and how I need to direct the family into what’s happening. You know where they are in this, this experience that they’re getting ready to have.
LOFTON: One of the things I think is interesting about hearing conversations around hospice, especially from providers in hospice, is that we hear a lot about a nursing shortage and yet, and like nursing turnover in hospitals. But hospice seems to have lower turnover rates. And people who become nurses in hospice tend to stay around despite being around death all the time, essentially. Why do you think that is?
CARTER: I think it is a calling. I think you do realize that it’s a special kind of nursing — you fall so much in love with what you do, and the families, and the patients. And I cannot imagine doing anything else. I don’t think it is for every nurse. I don’t. I think that you have a special belief and you want that special relationship with the patient and the family. I worked in the hospital and some nurses think that’s great, and that’s wonderful for them. But I didn’t feel, for me, that I could give the care — and the personal care, maybe I should say — that I wanted to. I just didn’t feel that I could do that. And with hospice, I can.
LOFTON: Does working with people at the end of life change how you live your life now?
CARTER: It does. You know, I have heard so many times from patients: ‘You know, I wish I would have done this or I wish I would have done that.’ I hear of their regrets. I see families and patients try to get over, you know, maybe they had been estranged, child had been estranged from a parent or, you know, a parent left and now they’re, they’re trying to make amends. I think …it’s taught me that I need to ask for forgiveness, not to have regrets, say what I need to say to my loved ones. So that when that time comes, you won’t have those regrets and those losses.
LOFTON: When you hear about things that people wish they had done, are there any themes that stand out to you that lots of people kind of have regrets with at the end of life?
CARTER: Oh, I think a lot of times it’s ‘I should have took that trip.’ ‘I shouldn’t have worked so much.’ ‘I should have spent more time with children or spouses.’ It’s those types of things that, you know, they wish they would have done. Things that may happen in life and you really don’t give it a second thought at the time. It seems to come back at the end of life, no matter how trivial it is — you, you remember, ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have done that.’ But hopefully for the most part, I think, you know, they may say those things. But again, it’s usually not big, huge things.
LOFTON: Over the last 20 years that you’ve been working in hospice, how has it changed?
CARTER: Well, when I first started, no one knew what it was. And now it is more mainstream. I think people are more, they understand more, what is happening. It — death — is not shunned like it used to be, you know. People talk about it more. Unfortunately with our drug problem, it has caused some problems for us. I have to count pills every time I go. I have to watch neighbors coming over to visit — we have to find a [secure] place to put the medicine. It used to be able to sit beside the bed, but it can’t do that anymore.
LOFTON: As more young people leave the state, are you seeing [a] smaller family group surrounding a patient at the end of life?
CARTER: I am. And I’m seeing, you know, a lot of times it’s the 90-year-old spouse trying to take care of the 90-year-old husband or wife. Family seems to live out of state a lot of times, and it has definitely caused some problems. Fortunately, we also have a long-term care team. And if the patient needs to be placed, they can still have hospice care. But there’s definitely a lot of family that are not local anymore…they’re looking to hire caregivers, [but] they might not be able to afford caregivers. In that case, we just try to ramp up our visits, and try to pull in anyone that we can possibly pull in to assist that family.
“At 92 years old, I finally learned to do as I’m told,
The sun comes up, the sun goes down,
The earth keeps goin’ ’round and ’round.
I’m content where I am.
In the winter of life, I do the best that I can.”
Princeton resident Donald Granstaff spends much of his time these days looking back on his life.
The 92-year-old husband, father, Navy veteran, musician, preacher and missionary served his country and God for decades around the globe. Today, Donald often reflects on those times from his bedroom while under the care of Pennyroyal Hospice.
“I was thinking the last few days, what have I accomplished?” he said Monday afternoon. “Around the world twice. Haiti and the West Indies — all that. And all I can come up with is the guys that I prayed with and I lead them to the Lord. And, I suppose that’s what it’s all about.”
To help Donald face the winter of his life, Kenna Hudgins, board certified music therapist, brings her keyboard, drums, guitar and even a tambourine, weekly to share an hour of tunes with the elderly patient at his home. Hudgins and Donald sing familiar songs and play the instruments together in an effort to make his transition easier.
“The main goal I initially assessed (for Donald) was for anticipatory grief — to work through the acceptance of the fact that we are terminal and now on hospice (care),” she said. “He’s very aware, so day after day just knowing that it’s coming and there will be changes and decline. Life is hard. Music therapy offers a way to process that musically.”
“Anyone who responds to music can benefit from music therapy, especially in hospice,” Hudgins said. “Music plays a role in all of our lives. It always has. It’s why we can watch a movie and feel scared, feel love or feel emotion. Music causes neurologic response — it affects our whole brain — in multiple areas simultaneously. Because of that, music therapy is not about being a musician. It’s not about understanding music. It’s about just responding.”
Hudgins, who is a contractor with Pennyroyal Hospice, uses her skills as a board certified music therapist to address the needs of patients in Christian, Todd, Trigg, Lyon and Caldwell counties in western Kentucky.
“Hospice is very grounding,” Hudgins said. “Every day that you go into somebody’s house and they’re dealing with their struggles, it brings you back to true purposes — day-to-day tasks and stresses don’t matter as much because life is short. Personally, it’s just a very rewarding field.”
Communicating with hospice social workers, Hudgins identifies patients who may benefit from music therapy. She asks family members for 10 minutes of their time to visit their loved one and share a song or two with them to assess his or her responses.
“I don’t usually talk much about it, I just let them experience it,” she said, smiling. “I’ve never been told not to come back and it’s never just 10 minutes.”
Hudgins said everyone has memories associated with certain music.
“A therapist’s job is to find that music that is significant to that person,” she said.
Working with some patients can be difficult, Hudgins said, because of the emotions tied to facing the end of life, but sharing music with them is rewarding.
“Music is so joyful,” she said. “When I get to bring joy to a family and a loved one … that’s not a sad job. … I’m really blessed to just be a part of their lives. To bring joy is just huge.”
Music with Donald
After working with Donald for several weeks, Hudgins said her therapy goals for him shifted to decreasing his feelings of isolation.
“I try to get as much participation from him physically, whether that’s playing the keyboard or drumming,” she said. “As his hands might get more stiff, clapping — anything to get his body engaged. If his body is unable, then just getting him to verbally participate. That, in and of itself, will decrease isolation.”
In Monday’s music therapy session, Hudgins wanted Donald to sing some love songs with her while playing instruments.
“With Valentine’s day coming up next week, we’re going to do sweetheart songs,” she said.
“The old sweetheart songs,” Donald said. “That’s the best kind, the old ones.”
The duo harmonized to Bing Crosby’s “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” as Hudgins played the keyboard.
“Let me call you sweetheart
I’m in love with you
Let me hear you whisper
That you love me too …”
In the middle of the song, Don stopped singing to share a childhood memory.
“I used to hear my dad sing that one all the time,” Donald said.
“Yeah? Did he sing it to your mom?” Hudgins said.
“Yeah. He worked in vaudeville for a long time,” he said. “He played mandolin and violin, and he sang all the time. He loved to sing.”
“Good memories,” Hudgins said.
Donald married his own sweetheart Betty 68 years ago. They exchanged vows on June 16, 1950.
“It was my birthday,” he said.
In the living room, Betty sat on the couch quietly listening to her husband sing and play music with Hudgins. She said music therapy is a comfort to her and Donald, who played several instruments, including the organ, keyboard and drums since he was a boy.
“I love that he’s even trying,” she said after the session. “I think this is a good thing for him because he was a musician. It meant so much to his heart. That was his life.”
Back in his bedroom, a second song, Frank Sinatra’s “My Funny Valentine,” also sparked Donald’s memories of his father.
“That’s a good song,” he said. “He used to sing songs like it.”
“I’m glad I’m making you think about your dad. I haven’t heard you talk a lot about him,” Hudgins said.
“He was quite a man. Yeah boy! He was something else,” Donald said, remembering times they would go fishing together at Lake Barkley. “He owned a couple of boats. Nice, big boats. And I used to go with him on the boats.”
Midway through the hour, Hudgins sang the chorus to a song about Donald’s life they wrote together after three or four music therapy sessions.
“I am a husband, a father, a preacher, a teacher
A born-again, saved-by-grace man …”
“When I came out of college, I was a really smooth character,” Donald said, listening to the lyrics. “I was fast and furious, and I didn’t stay that way very long. I was saved in June 1959, and before that I was a ‘religious’ human being …”
Early in their marriage, Donald and Betty took their five children to the mission field in the British Isles of the Caribbean and later in Haiti. Donald also helped another missionary build a radio station in Dominica. When they moved back to the U.S., he pastored a few churches in McMinnville, Tennessee, and Princeton. For a time, he often played the organ in the Barkley Lodge dining room.
“He was a musician from the time he was little,” Betty said. “Every church we were a part of he would play the organ until he wasn’t able to physically.”
Now, Betty said, some days can be difficult.
“Sometimes I have an overwhelming sadness. It’s hard to see him not be able to do anything,” Betty said, crying. “God love him, he never complains. Never, ever complains about anything. He’s just always up and very sweet. He’s still a testimony to everybody that visits him because of his attitude.”
To close out Monday’s music therapy session, Donald and Hudgins sang the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans classic, “Happy Trails.”
“Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.”
“I think it’s good. It can help lift you up,” Donald said of music therapy with Hudgins. “I’m not like some guys. Some guys get tired of it, throw their hands up and leave. I’ll try.”
Hudgins said Donald “still has a lot of life in him.”
“Whether (the patient) is a musician or not, music is a way to connect with the outside world. It can pull you into different areas of your own life, make you feel alive again,” she said.
Part of Donald’s legacy will be the song he and Hudgins wrote together.
“We have created a tangible song that he can leave for his family,” she said. “His family are musicians so they can actually play that song and play it with him.”
The chorus is:
“I am a husband, a father, a teacher, a preacher
A born-again, saved-by-grace man.
I’m a musician, woodworker, a servant, missionary
But most of all I’m just a good ole boy from Kentucky.”
Donald and Hudgins plan to meet next week for music therapy.
“Every one of us has had music in our lives that has impacted us,” Hudgins said. “It’s my job to figure out what is going to impact someone at the end of their life for the best end-of-life experience possible.”