Hymns for Alzheimer’s: FAQ

Hello friends! As of October 2019, I’ve finished this labor of love: creating free downloadable hymn singalongs for elders with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

I surpassed my GoFundMe goal in August 2018 — thank you everyone!

FAQ

When will these songs be available for download?

Right now! As of June 2019, all 86 of the hymns, gospels songs, and spirituals are done and ready for download. And as of October 2019, the Christmas set (20 classic carols) is done and ready for download.

Why did you start this project?

While doing this chaplain work, I realized that there were no downloadable singalong hymns for people with dementia anywhere online, let alone for for free – so I decided to create them myself.

I love the work I do with elders and the way I see God’s spirit reach them through music every single week. It’s common for seniors to begin weeping when they hear certain songs, and people with limited or even no verbal ability move their lips to the lyrics or raise their heads and hands. Their spirits come alive, whether for a moment or longer, and it’s beautiful.

I figure that if activity directors, other chaplains, or even volunteers want to provide a simple church service for elders with dementia, these downloadable singalong hymns (along with my free worship agendas) will make it easy. You won’t have to be musical or a trained worship leader to offer this important spiritual care.

Are your songs and resources only for Christians?

Let me hasten to point out that people of any faith background or no faith background love this music! The songs come from the Christian worship tradition, but elders from other faiths and no faith regularly come to my meetings, enjoy the songs, and tell me they’re glad they came.

That said, more than 90 percent of the elders I minister to come from some branch of the Christian faith, either Catholic or Protestant. Worship service themes tend to be general (for example, honor, community, beauty), but I definitely incorporate rituals and traditions, such as Bible readings and The Lord’s prayer, that are familiar to the majority of attendees. For elders who sorely miss going to church every Sunday, this is extremely important and meaningful.

How did you choose the song list?

I wanted to be sure I included a solid cross-section of songs from major U.S. regions and denominations. So I spent hours creating a spreadsheet of the most well-known hymns and checked each one on Hymnary.org to see which denominations include it in its hymnal.

I also wanted to be sure to include songs that would suit worshippers in varied geographic regions. From that sprung the gospel songs and spirituals, which are more commonly sung in Southern regions of the U.S. (Maybe someday I’ll have time and resources to record some hymns in other languages, such as Spanish and Chinese!)

I also asked friends and readers which songs they would like included, and I took into account my own experience of what seniors with dementia respond to.

Who did the song arrangements?

I leaned on my experience with elders with dementia and my musicians to make these recordings ideal for their target audience. It’s important to remember that the recordings are not primarily meant to be typical performances; they are designed as sing-alongs, so it’s critical to keep arrangements and vocals simple. (Of course, they’re nice for listening too!) We recorded several sets over several months, but every song features only two vocalists and a simple piano accompanist.

Do you have permission to use these songs?

All but four of the songs are in the public domain. For those that are not, I obtained copyright permission.

Will these songs be available as CDs, downloads, and on streaming services?

I have no plans to create CDs, but you are welcome to make your own. All song files are available as free, downloadable music files. In 2020, I’m planning to add them to streaming services such as Spotify, SoundCloud, and/or Pandora.

How was the GoFundMe money used?

The bulk of funds paid for studio time, my nine professional musicians, and copies of sheet music. I don’t make any profit doing this ministry. But I do believe in paying artists, such as sound engineers and musicians, for their work.

Can I still make a donation?

Sure! Just click on the Donate button (wreath) at the top right of this page. Or you can send me a check directly if you prefer; please contact me to set that up.

Are donations tax-deductible?

Sorry, no. Spiritual ElderCare is not set up as a nonprofit (at least not yet). If you’re part of an organization or foundation that requires a tax receipt for donations, please let me know.

What will you do with any additional donations?

Any donations go directly to other Spiritual Eldercare expenses. My wish list includes:

  • Props such as simple banners to decorate the rooms where I conduct services (these also help the staff to treat the time and space respectfully).
  • A lapel or headset mike for services and Bible studies (my voice gets hoarse!).
  • Songbooks that I can take with me to any residence.
  • Gas for my travel.
  • Continuing chaplain and dementia education classes.
  • Streaming and additional memory capacity on the Spiritual Eldercare website.
  • Funds to co-present at the American Society on Aging conference in March 2020. (Talk title: “Why–and How–to Provide Spiritual Care to Older Adults with Dementia.”)

What’s your long-term goal as a chaplain for elders with dementia?

My big audacious goal: I want to see nondenominational spiritual care offered to elders with dementia everywhere in the world. I would love to train people how to do this kind of work.

How else can I help?

Please spread the word. More than anything else, I want people to know that these resources exist, for free. Use your social media accounts to tell people about the hymn recordingsworship services and Bible studies for people with dementia, now on SpiritualEldercare.com.

If you have media contacts that might be interested in this work, feel free to put them in touch with me.

I am so thankful for all of your encouragements! Add any questions to the comments below.

Peace be with you,

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Photo by Jonathan Brinkhorst on Unsplash

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