A dementia-striken husband who doesn’t speak has been able to reconnect with his wife with the help of a ‘music memory box’.
The Music Memory Box is a kit which families fill with significant objects such as photographs which also plays songs.
Steve Garrity, 82, and his wife Monica, 74, of Bristol, use the innovative box to play their love song – ‘Temma harbour’ by Mary Hopkin – while remembering their happy life together.
Mr Garrity has slowly deteriorated since his diagnosis of dementia and Parkinson’s in 2011 and has been unable to speak to his wife for five years.
Mrs Garrity said the box has ‘wonderful’ for the couple, as Mr Garrity hums along to the music and holds out his hand to his wife.
The combination of memorabilia in the box, which is still in prototype, created by Chloe Meineck, 28, have seen incredible reactions from patients who struggle to communicate due to living with dementia or similar conditions.
Mrs Garrity said: ‘We have been able to connect again, it is wonderful.
‘He doesn’t usually communicate with me but when the music plays, he hums along and even holds out his hand to grab mine.’
When the music is played through the box by the couple placing a miniature palm tree figurine in the centre – an object which signifies the memory – Mr Garrity can instantly remember days dancing with his wife on the coastline of Ghana.
‘We moved to Ghana the day after our wedding more than 50 years ago so the song is very emotive,’ Mrs Garrity said.
‘It takes us back to when we got married, it feels like we are back in Ghana together.’
Mr and Mrs Garrity, who married in Britain in 1967, lived in the African country for four years and used to dance to their song together under the palm trees on the coast.
Sadly, in 2011, Mr Garrity was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia.
This type of progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function.
Since 2013 when he moved to Deerhurst care home in Bristol, Mr Garrity has lost the ability to speak to his wife, as many sufferers of both Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s struggle with speech.
However, Mrs Garrity was one of the first users in the UK to trial the box in 2017.
When the object is placed in the centre of the box, the matched song begins to play from a speaker situated on the front of the device.
Mrs Garrity, a former medical secretary, and Mr Garrity, a former construction electrician, use the box every week to bring back memories of their incredible time in Africa.
The couple, who have two children – Mark, 50 and Kirsty, 48 – used to be keen ballroom and rock and roll dancers.
Although Mr Garrity now uses a wheelchair, they share a love of music and Mrs Garrity said her husband ‘lights up’ as soon as one of their favourite songs are played.
She said: ‘Whenever we play the songs it is so emotive. Steve has been deteriorating and can’t speak any more.
‘He doesn’t make many facial expressions due to his condition but his memory is still there.
‘He remembers the music from different points in our lives once the song starts to play.
‘The technology is amazing.’
Mrs Garrity also uses other objects in the box to play music from various monumental events in their lives to remind Mr Garrity about other poignant times.
She added: ‘We have a guitar as one of the models.
‘This links to the song La Paloma by Andre Rieu which Garrity asked a guitarist to play to me in a restaurant.
‘Steve knows it as soon as it comes on and instantly we are back having a meal together.
‘We also have a photograph of myself in there which plays one of our favourite songs, Portrait of My Love by Matt Monro.’
There are 850,000 people estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, and five million in the US.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over one million.
An estimated 145,000 people were diagnosed with the Parkinson’s in the UK in 2018, and approximately 60,000 people in the US each year.