Documentary to Showcase the Power of Music to Mend Minds
BY LINDSAY WILKES-EDRINGTON
Music has been proven to have a powerful effect on those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, helping boost brain activity and bring back old memories. Now, a new documentary is set to profile one group of individuals who have joined a band to experience the joy that music brings into their lives.
“The 5th Dementia Documentary” profiles the 5th Dementia Band, a diverse group featuring former professionals from a range of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds who now struggle to remember anything at all due to Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s. The band is the flagship group of the 501(c)(3) organization MusicMendsMinds, which helps to build musical support networks across the country for seniors and patients afflicted with PTSD, cognitive decline, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Based in West Los Angeles, The 5th Dementia is intergenerational and its members gather bi-weekly to play and sing together. When the music starts, they are transformed. The rhythms and melodies stir something deep within them. These men and women, leading lives with almost no social interaction who show very little emotion outside the rehearsal space, dive right into flawless execution without a single page of sheet music. Memories otherwise entirely unreachable are unlocked. The music has a euphoric and quality of life changing impact.
Documentary filmmaker, Serene Meshel-Dillman says she was hooked the first time she saw The 5th Dementia perform. She was moved enough by the group’s innate talent and the way the music stirred them to sing aloud or dance in the aisles, that she put aside another project to immediately begin filming The 5th Dementia Documentary.
Through uniquely personal stories, from inspiring daily triumphs to the sobering toll of slow mental decline, Meshel-Dillman says she hopes viewers of The 5th Dementia Documentary will see an emotional, revealing look at this inexplicable phenomena. She is currently in the midst of production and is raising funds through the film’s website to complete the film. To learn more and help support the film, go here: The5thDementiaDocumentary.com.The film’s producers have partnered with Creative Visions out of Malibu to help with tax-exempt fund-raising for the documentary.
The following is an excerpt from an interview for the documentary with Leola Davis, who is 90 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and her daughter, Denise. Leola lives in a nursing home facility with five other people, all of whom suffer from either Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Denise has hung photos above Leola’s bed so she can see members of her family before she sleeps and when she wakes. Leola was a teacher and then principal at a Los Angeles school for 30 years. This interview took place in Leola’s room and in the dining area of her nursing home.
Denise: Hey mommy, you got any kids?
Denise: Yes, children.
Leola: Where? Here?
Denise: Do you have any children at all?
Leola: No I don’t.
Denise: You didn’t have 2 kids?
Leola: Not today.
Denise: Did you ever have any kids?
Leola: I had kids when they were younger.
Denise: Exactly. How many 2?
Leola: Yes, there were 2 of them.
Denise: What are their names?
Leola: You tell me what they are. I forgot, it’s been a long time. Kids are going off and getting ready.
Serene, filmmaker: (To Denise) When did the signs of (your mother’s) illness show up?
Denise: It’s was always really slow and easily explained away. I asked her doctors to test her. They dismissed me. The doctors said “Miss Davis you don’t have anything wrong with your memory do you?” And mom agreed with them.
Leola: Did I say that?
Denise: Yes, you did.
Serene: (To Leola) Tell me about your musical background. Leola did you play piano?
Leola: At home and in church.
Serene: Do you still play the piano?
Leola: Yes, I don’t go as fast as I used to. But I have quite a time. ‘Cause I have to take another time to have something to do. Work in order to have to so I can get. Myself.
Serene: Do you have a favorite song?
Leola: Favorite song, let me see, what is it?
Serene: Fly me to the moon?
Leola: Fly me to the moon. I’ve heard of it, yeah. (She sings the right tune.) Something like that.
Serene: (To Denise) Do you think that Leola’s more joyful since joining Music Mends Minds?
Denise: Absolutely. (To Leola), I think that’s why you sing when you’re here now.
Leola: Oh, yes.
Denise: We’ve been going to Music Mends Minds since they started. My priorities are that she can walk and that she’s happy.
Leola: I’m happy.
Denise: If we have to go down this road, then she might as well be happy.
Serene: It’s been a pleasure getting to know you Leola.
Leola : It’s been you, too.
Serene: You sing your heart out.
Leola: Yeah. I like it.
Serene: Leola, when you’re at the rehearsal, do you read the words on the screen or do you know them?
Leola: I know the words. But sometimes it’s something new, I’m working with that.
Serene: You can read the words.
Leola: I can read the words.
Serene: Pointing to a picture on her wall. Who is that?
Leola: That’s me.
Serene: It looks like you.
Denise: But it’s not you, buddy.
Leola: It’s not me? Who is it?
Denise: It’s your daughter.
Leola: Oh that’s right. It is my daughter.
Denise: Does it look like anybody in this room?
Leola: No, but that’s my brother over there. (Pointing to another picture.)
Denise: That’s not your brother. That’s your son.
Leola: Oh, that’s right.
Denise: What are your kids’ names?
Leola: Well, this is my brother.
Denise: Is this Gregory?
Leola: Yes, that’s Gregory.
Denise: Yeah he’s your son. And who’s the other kid?
Leola: She’s turned to a young lady. A girl. A young girl. Who likes to work with the people who she likes to hear what they’re doing.
Denise: That’s your daughter, mommy.
Leola: ‘Cause I have to help to work them, help them to work to have good thinking of themselves.
Denise: Well, you did do that, but that’s me.
Leola: Yes, I know it was you.
Denise: It is me. This one, right here.
Leola: Oh that’s you? Oh I didn’t…You’re right. That is you.
Denise: Do you remember Floyd Lewis? (This is a letter from her old student).
Leola reads the letter from Floyd perfectly. When she gets to the part where Denise is mentioned, she points up to Denise and says…. “that’s her”. Denise smiles.
You can see Leola and the 5th Dementia band perform on Mondays from 1:30-3pm PT at The Brentwood Presbyterian Church in LA. They also perform on Wednesdays from 3:30-5pm at Windward School Music Studio in LA.
To visit the 5th Dementia Band Documentary website, go here: The5thDementiaDocumentary.com.
WATCH THE FILM TRAILER BELOW:
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