Watch emotional moment as memories flood back to 97yo with dementia
A musician has given a priceless gift to a 97-year-old woman who lives with dementia. Vivienne Groves’ reaction moved her family to tears when she was brought a cello hand crafted by her late father almost a hundred years ago.
Andre Ozturk lives and breathes music.
So, when he discovered a cello he'd bought was almost a hundred years old, he was curious to find out more about the man who made it.
A sticker on the inside of the hand-crafted instrument provided him a with a clue - the name of a highly regarded cello maker: Nelson Hardy Oliver.
A violin maker himself, Andre became determined to find out if Nelson had any surviving relatives.
“I realised in my searches on ancestry.com that he may well have one surviving child. So, I became pretty anxious to find her in the hope of being able to play her this cello,” Andre says.
But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t work out where Vivienne was, or if she was still alive.
So, he employed a genealogist to help.
She gave me a call one day when I was at work and said, ‘We’ve found her! Vivienne’s alive, she’s in a nursing home in Croydon!'
“And at that point I knew that I had to just book my ticket and fly here with the cello.”
Vivienne Groves turns 98 this month. She lives with dementia in Bupa Croydon, an aged care home, and has very limited short term memory. But she has clear childhood recollections of watching her father make instruments.
“I was always around when he was making them. He’d be out in the garage somewhere and I’d be there too. I’d just be watching. You didn’t interfere with someone making an instrument,” Vivienne chuckled.
Years later, music still has a very powerful impact on Vivienne.
“Mentally, she could sit there and play the music over and over in her head,” says her great-niece Catherine Jones. “She’s not a really social person, but the music in her head is alive and I think that’s what has kept her brain so active and in tune for so long.”
When Vivienne was told that a man wanted to see her who would bring a cello which her father had made, for some unknown reason the conversation stuck in her mind.
“She doesn’t remember many of our conversations,” says her niece Rosemary Jones, “But for some reason she remembered the conversation about the cello. She kept asking me, when can I see it? When is the man with the cello coming?”
When Andre learnt that Vivienne was living with dementia and had lost much of her short-term memory, he was apprehensive about how his visit would be received.
But her reaction was priceless.
Vivienne lit up when she saw him and embraced him warmly. “I didn’t know whether I was even going to meet you at all!” she said.
True to his word, Andre took out the instrument and played it for Vivienne.
You could actually see that she was at peace, she was just taken away and focussed on him.
Then, to the surprise of all watching, she took hold of it the bow and started playing.
Her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews had all come to watch, and there was barely a dry eye in the room.
A few minutes later, she’d forgotten again.
“I can play the cello but I haven’t played it for a while,” she said.
When prompted, “I think you might have played it this afternoon,” she responded, “Nah, I don’t think so.”
While her moment of clarity may have been brief, it was one her family will never forget.
Despite the years that have passed, the cello is still in remarkably good condition, and its sound is still as warm as ever. The cello is one of only three that Nelson ever made, along with 17 violins, and a range of violas.
Remarkable to some, but not to Vivienne.
“Why would it be amazing? I was there when he made it. Our family never made a fuss about anything that was going on. It was just done.”
At the heart of Bupa’s care is the Person First approach, which is about making an emotional connection with the person, understanding their background, as well as tending to their physical care needs. The Person First approach is especially important for people with dementia.
Find out more about Bupa Aged Care here.