Eddie O’Brien, 74, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago after his family noticed he was forgetting names and getting lost on his way home.
The debilitating affliction has left him struggling to verbally communicate with his family — but now his daughter Rebecca, 30, discovered that music brings him “back to life.”
She began playing some of his favorite tunes and watched as he whipped out his “crazy moves.”
“My dad’s always liked music, we’ve always got music on in the house. I remember during COVID, me and my dad were in the car and we went to my cousin’s to drop a present off, and I put some of his old music on in the car,” Rebecca told South West News Service.
“After, we had a few drinks at home – and my dad was just up jumping and dancing.”
Eddie loves to dance to anything from rap to country, but he gets especially excited to jam out to his favorite oldies — especially anything from Elvis Presley.
“He absolutely loves Elvis, but any kind of music, any kind of beat, he literally just loves it,” Rebecca said, noting that one of his favorite tunes by Presley — who is getting a resurgence in popularity with the new biopic “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler — is the King of Rock and Roll’s “Suspicious Minds.”
Rebecca recorded the touching moment her father lit up when listening to music. For Father’s Day, she bought Eddie some headphones, and “he really, really took to them” when he started playing his favorite tunes.
“I don’t think my mum was too pleased. She was trying to watch the TV, but my dad was just singing above it,” said Rebecca, who lives in Warrington, Cheshire, in the UK. “He absolutely loved it.”
The music aficionado still goes to the pub in Warrington every Monday between 2 and 7 p.m. and gets patrons to swivel their hips. “The DJ there messaged me to say he doesn’t have to do his job because my dad gets everyone dancing,” Rebecca said.
Eddie’s diagnosis has been tough on his family but music has kept them smiling.
“It’s just a breath of fresh air to be honest, because [Alzheimer’s] can be so heart-breaking,” Rebecca said of her heartwarming discovery.
“A lot of the time, it makes people become angrier and more agitated and frustrated because they don’t know what’s going on. But with my Dad, he just doesn’t seem to care, and I think that’s the best way to be — he’s absolutely loving life now,” she said.
“And he just has these crazy moves — you can just tell he’s just so happy, and it just really brings him back to life,” Rebecca added.
The O’Brien family became worried about their patriarch after they noticed his cognitive decline was leading to some frightening situations, including a time when Eddie was robbed.
“The two men had stolen £500 [about $613] out of his bank accounts because he’d kept his pin number in his wallet. And another time, he said he had got on the wrong bus home, but he couldn’t remember where it had taken him to,” Rebecca shared with SWNS. “And that’s when we started having quite a lot of concerns really.”
Rebecca, who works as an elderly care assistant, explained that the family does have days when they struggle with Eddie’s disease but are happy overall.
“In general, he’s just really happy, and It’s lovely to be around him because he’s just so happy, and he makes me happy and that’s all I focus on,” Rebecca said.
Music has been found to trigger memories and emotions in people with dementia- Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
“Music has the power to create beautiful moments of togetherness, to enliven, stimulate and enable people to express themselves,” Grace Meadows, campaign director at UK group Music for Dementia, explained to SWNS.
“It can help people with Alzheimer’s in so many other ways, too, providing a channel through which to manage symptoms of the conditions and emotions,” Meadows added. “It can bring joy when they’re feeling down or create a sense of calm if they’re agitated or anxious, as well as create wonderful, shared experiences with loved ones.”
So, let the music play!