OC choir uses music therapy to help people with dementia

A choir in Orange County is using music to give people with dementia a dose of music therapy.

OK Chorale meets at Laguna Country United Methodist Church every week and uses music to target everything from mild memory loss to Alzheimer's in hopes of stimulating the brain and growth of new neuropathways.

"We call it the OK Chorale because our motto is, in here, it's all OK. You forget the words? It's OK," said music therapist and choir director, Karen Skipper.

As seen in the 2014 documentary, "Alive Inside," music can reach people who are otherwise unreachable.

"If you look at a brain image while someone is engaging in music, particularly music that they like, preferred music, you can see activity all over the brain. Music therapy cannot cure dementia, but what it can do is it can help people to access things that they could not access without the music," said Skipper.

Kjersti Schmitz comes every once in a while with her mother, and the visits help bring back special memories: "One of the ones we're singing right now is 'I love you a bushel and a peck, and when I was a kid, mom used to put me to bed, singing 'I love you a bushel and a peck' and so when we sing that, it's actually really special."

Skipper hopes that the group maintains cognition because, "until there is a cure, or some kind of scientific breakthrough, that's a victory right there if you can maintain cognition."

For the first year, the local Methodist Conference helped fund the program, and now, the church has secured enough funding for it to continue.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.