When his Mother with Dementia no Longer Recognized him he Wrote a Song

Only Music Made his Mother with Dementia Smile

Music and the Brain

“Blank Stares”

This is a very heart wrenching story. A country singer Jay Allen, recently brought his mother, Sherry Rich, up on stage with him at the Dubuque County Fair in Iowa, while he sang a song “Blank Stares” that he had written for her when she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Jay says his mother age 53 does not have long to live, as she is in the last stages. The lyrics of this song are so very poignant and really capture how a son feels when his mother no longer recognizes him because of this terrible dementia:

“If I could only seal, the cracks you’re slipping through, wish I didn’t feel so helpless, when it comes to helping you. … You’re still in there, deep down somewhere, I swear I still see you, between the blank stares.”

The live performance was captured on video and has had more than 900,000 shares on Facebook. Jay Allen hopes that this song he wrote will somehow help to lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s and will be a tool to fight it. Jay Allen has dedicated, forever, all the royalties from his song “Blank Stares” to Abe’s Garden, a not-for-profit Memory Care Center for research and training in Nashville, that was founded in the memory of Dr. Abram “Abe” Shmerling, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregiving for his Mother

Allen says his mother had been cared for the last three years by her younger brother Pete who came to be her voluntary caregiver. Allen’s father works at a 60 hour a week job and cannot take care of his wife during the day.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common dementia and afflicts more than five and a half million Americans and about 50 million people world-wide. It is a progressive dementia that leads to memory loss, psychiatric behavior problems, and personality changes. While it usually affects seniors over age 65, there are also early onset cases, that can strike people in their 40s and 50s, and the dementia forces them to stop driving, working and doing day-to-day chores. While Alzheimer’s dementia takes a terrible emotional and financial toll on family members, those that are hit with early onset are really dealt a worse financial blow, as they are too young for Medicare and most fall through the cracks as far as insurance is concerned. Enormous amounts of funding have been poured into research in the hope of finding a cure or a way to prevent Alzheimer’s by vaccine or medicine, but so far there is nothing today that can really help stop it. Alzheimer’s is listed as the sixth cause of death in the United States, but according to the National institute on Aging (NIA), it may really be the third cause of death just after heart disease and cancer.

Only Music Makes his Mother Smile

Allen says that the only time his mother smiles is when she hears country music. Music has been shown to be a therapeutic benefit for many people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia and many care centers have music therapy as part of their integrative therapy programs or music as part of their recreational therapy programs. Music, especially, the old songs that many Alzheimer’s patients grew up with, has a reminiscent therapeutic treatment for triggering up old memories. Music has also been shown to be beneficial in programs for stroke rehabilitation and for Parkinson’s patients.

Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York, offers memory care and also has a lot of wonderful musical programs and singalongs, as part of their recreational therapy programs. See our earlier blog post from July 11, 2018.


Music is so very beneficial to everyone. We all love the old songs. Moreover, music therapy has been shown to be particularly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s, stroke rehabilitation and Parkinson’s disease. We can only hope that soon there will be a cure or vaccine for this terrible disease.


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