Watch CBS News

Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease can pose special challenges for families

Upper West Side man uses music to connect to mother with Alzheimer's
Upper West Side man uses music to connect to mother with Alzheimer's 02:34

NEW YORK - Many people have watched loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, and sometimes their health struggles can be difficult for families. 

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis sat down with an Upper West Side family who hopes their experience can help others. 

As DeAngelis reports, music fills Bart Feller's heart and, thanks to his late father, music is at the hear of his family. 

"We learned to love music and get immersed in it through him," Feller said. 

Feller plays principal flute the New Jersey symphony. He also teaches at Julliard and Rutgers University. But he frequently performs for a special audience - his mother, Bernice. The 93-year-old has late-stage dementia and it has become challenging for her to communicate, but her son believes the melody is infused in her memory. 


"The short term memory goes first, as you know, from Alzheimer's. So these are longer, more established memories, and so they're more accessible in the memory banks," Feller said. 

Her family fills her apartment with music, often. Her grandson sings her Yiddish songs to stimulate memories. 

"Yiddish was the language that was spoken in her growing up household. So, if I say a Yiddish word, that sparks a remembrance and she gets a smile, or a laugh, or maybe even repeats the word with me. That's of course a great moment and a great win," Feller said. 

Bernice spent decades selling costume jewelry and it's still a big part of her life today.


"To this day, she's very engaged with color and shapes. It's as if the jewelry's still working through her mind," Feller said. 

A few years ago, she didn't need 24/7 care. But over time, that changed. Her son eventually moved her from Long Island to his Upper West Side apartment building where, with the help of Alliance Homecare, she also has the support of caregivers. 

"This is just a disease that only goes in one direction. And now she comes to rely on her 24/7 aides, and I think she is very, very grateful for them, and they in turn are very devoted to her," Feller said. 

Since words can be difficult for Bernice, they turn to other avenues, including touch, and photographs. 

"We hope to keep these memories of children and grandchildren super, super alive for her through the sharing of the images," Feller said. 

But it's music which really strikes a chord, so it will the home - and hopefully Bernice's hear - for the rest of her years. 

"My hope is that she continues to have this mellow and easy time in her last years, knowing she's surrounded by so much love and so much family," Feller said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.