A husband living with dementia who doesn’t speak has finally been able to reconnect with his wife – using a combination of sights and sounds in a ‘Music Memory Box’.
The ‘Music Memory Box’ is a kit which families fill with objects, photographs and music once significant in the lives of dementia sufferers.
The technology within the box then enables songs to be played by moving the objects into the centre of the space.
The combination of sound, a tangible object and photographs of the particular memory have seen incredible reactions from patients who otherwise struggle to communicate – including those living with dementia or similar conditions.
Devoted couple Steve Garrity, 82, and his wife Monica, 74, use the innovative box to interact while their love song – “Temma harbour” by Mary Hopkin – plays.
Steve, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 and has slowly deteriorated since, hums along to the music and holds out his hand to Monica.
He has lost the ability to speak to Monica but still has awareness so the box has been a lifeline for the couple to remember incredible times within their lives.
When the music is played through the box by Steve or Monica placing a ‘Palm Tree’ in the centre – an object which signifies the memory – Steve can instantly remember days dancing with his wife on the coastline of Ghana.
Monica, from Bristol, said: “We have been able to connect again, it is wonderful.
“We moved to Ghana the day after our wedding more than 50 years ago so the song is very emotive.
“He doesn’t usually communicate with me but when the music plays, he hums along and even holds out his hand to grab mine.
“It takes us back to when we got married, it feels like we are back in Ghana together.”
Steve and Monica, who married in Britain in 1967, lived in the African country for four year and the besotted pair used to dance to their song together under the palm trees on the coast.
In 2011, Steve was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia – a 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, Steve has lost the ability to speak to his wife.
However, Monica 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.
Monica, a former medical secretary, and Steve, 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 Steve now uses a wheelchair, they share a love of music and Monica said her husband “lights up” as soon as one of their favourite songs is played.
She added: “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.”
Monica also uses other objects in the box to play music from various monumental events in their lives to remind Steve 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 Steve 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.”
According to founder Chloe Meineck, 28, the box ‘harnesses the evocative power of music’ to create a tool for people living with dementia to ‘reminisce, reawaken and reconnect with loved ones’.
Her journey to designing the box began as a child – visiting her 104-year-old great-grandmother who was living with dementia and playing the piano together.
During a 3D design course at the University of Brighton, Chloe made the first bespoke version of the box as part of a final project after learning to code.
Since graduating in 2012, Chloe has received grant funding from an artist residency to produce 28 prototypes of the product to send to families to test.
The kickstarter fund she set up for the initial launch of the project has been hugely successful – generating £25k from donors in just two weeks – and Chloe is now preparing to send the first orders.
Chloe, who has won multiple awards as a young designer, added: “We have tested it with many families and I have been able to make improvements and ask for opinions.
“I am so happy the kickstarter has reached the funding target and we can start sending the products out to help families around the world.”
To find out more about the product, visit: http://www.studiomeineck.com/music-memory-box/