By Hannah Willis
For those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases, Michael Garron Hospital’s Memory Care Unit (MCU) is a safe and comfortable space where patients and their families can work with a team of specialists to develop long-term care plans. Mid to-late stage dementia often presents behavior problems including confusion and aggression. But volunteer Michael Repoulis found a way to make patients feel right at home—through music.
Before the onset of COVID-19, Michael played guitar for patients in the MCU for more than three years.
“My son George was a patient in the hospital in the long-term care unit. I used to sit with George in the lounge and play classical guitar and piano music for him, and one day Sandra Dickau (director of Complex Continuing Care) suggested that maybe I might perform for the patients in the MCU.”
It quickly became a huge hit—patients in the MCU were so enthusiastic that Michael began playing for them every afternoon.
“In a place like this, with patients like these, music has the power to take someone back into their past and bring up memories … I would play renaissance, baroque, classical as well as original compositions. Also I would add to the repertoire 60s and 70s songs by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin—music that feels familiar and allows people to remember good things.”
Before he started volunteering, Michael knew very little about dementia.
“It was a learning experience for me. I recently took an online course ‘Understanding dementia’; there were a lot of things I didn’t know about it. I’d like to take another course to learn more.”
Michael’s son George passed away in 2019. After a long period of grieving the loss of his son, Michael found the courage to return to Michael Garron Hospital in early 2020 and continue to generously donate his music. Although he had to stop amid the rise of COVID-19 cases and volunteer restrictions, Michael plans to return to the hospital when it is safe to do so and continue to share his gift.
"If anyone wants to give back to society, the hospital is an ideal place to do that – people really need it.”
“Michael demonstrates the meaningful impact of giving, and the true ethos of the heart of the east”, says Dr. Pieter Jugovic, physician, Complex Continuing Care. “By building community between patients, staff and families, sharing his talents and giving his time, Michael has touched the lives of so many patients. And as memory care services become a growing part of our aging community, he is making a profound and widespread impact.”