I have just read an interesting story published on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Alz.org. They quoted extensively from an interview in People Magazine with Victoria Huggins – Miss North Carolina – who had taken part in the recent Miss America beauty pageant.
Victoria gave a great interview and spoke to her almost lifelong experience with a close relative suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It was heartwarming to read of a young persons desire to be associated with efforts to enhance caregiving and bring joy to the lives of those suffering the disease.
I was thrilled to read that she is a proponent of the movement to create individual musical playlists, something our own Program Director and Memory Care Specialist, Maureen Gleason – is pursuing at Memory Matters.
So here is an excerpt from the thoughts, words and actions of Miss North Carolina.
The Moment Miss America Contestant Victoria Huggins Knew She Wanted to Advocate for Alzheimer’s Awareness: ‘It Was Like a Scene Out of The Notebook’
Victoria Huggins returned to the pageant circuit at 17, but she had been advocating for Alzheimer’s awareness and music therapy since she was 7 years old.
Huggins, the reigning Miss North Carolina, sang for her great-grandmother during visits to the nursing home where she received extended care. After a while, other residents wanted to hear her voice, so Huggins performed in the lobby, where she encountered Alzheimer’s patients for the first time.
“Sometimes the music would help connect them to memories they had been unable to remember due to Alzheimer’s. To see how something that I love so much, music, was able to bring so much joy and comfort not only to the person dealing with the disease, but also their families, that showed me that that was something I wanted to get involved in.”
Huggins — who entered her first pageant when she was 5 years old — remembers one song in particular that resonated with a patient she visited in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“There was a lady named Miss Rosie, and she had not been able to remember her husband for the past six months,” the University of North Carolina at Pembroke alumna recalls. “I started singing ‘At Last,’ and she reached her hand from the wheelchair to her husband’s beside her and said, ‘Honey, that’s our song.’ She started singing along to the lyrics and told all of her caregivers that that was her first dance at their wedding. He just looked at her like he had seen the sun for the first time. It was like a scene out of The Notebook.”
Life changing moments like that led Huggins to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association, for which she serves as an ambassador and partakes in the organization’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. And since earning the title of Miss North Carolina in June, Huggins has started gathering iPods and loading them with personalized playlists for Alzheimer’s patients to listen to in nursing homes.
The Johns Hopkins grad student explains that the cost of music therapy makes it difficult to implement in every nursing home, but the iPods can help until legislation funding the practice passes.
“That’s my ultimate goal,” Huggins says of pushing for government funding. “North Carolina is on the way to having it implemented in every facility. A lot of other states have it on a much larger scale, but it definitely needs more awareness, and I hope that’s what I can do.”
Bringing her cause to Miss America, where she recently competed seems like a perfect fit to Huggins, as nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.
Memory Matters is seeking a grant to enable us to buy iPods, headsets and sufficient iTunes music to be able to provide personalized playlists to our clients and their caregivers. Please contact us if you can help.
For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.