Dad with Alzheimer’s Can’t Remember His Own Family Until Son Starts Playing Old Records

February 13, 2019 Updated: February 13, 2019

Every year, it is estimated that 5 million Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease—and although the condition itself cannot alone cause death, the American Alzheimer’s Association has stated that the deadly side effects and symptoms make it the sixth-leading cause of deaths in the nation.

Despite the loss of life, the disease itself is the most heartbreaking thing to experience for many families. Defined as a general form of dementia and categorized by progressive, heavily impairing memory loss, the disease robs people of their minds and memories long before it ever takes their lives.

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That heartbreaking progression was too much for son Mac McDermott, who watched as his father, Ted, lost the ability to recognize his family members or remember much about who he is.

McDermott discovered, though, that there was one way that he could get his father to remember who he was—even if it only came in small increments.

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“Dad was a singer all his life—he was a Butlin’s Redcoat and then traveled around singing in clubs around the country. He worked in a factory after he got married and still did the bit of singing on side. His nickname is ‘The Songaminute Man’—simply because of how many songs he knows.

“In the last few years his memory has deteriorated a lot—often not recognizing family and with many aggressive episodes.”

Butlin's Barry Island (1974)Search for The Songaminute Man Book by Simon McDermott to read our story.

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McDermott went on to explain that all of those songs haven’t gone away entirely. He’s able to keep his father with the family for a little bit longer if, during brief lucid episodes, he turns on some of his father’s favorite tunes.

The former traveling musician remains a singer at heart. Like magic, the music immediately sparks his memory; even though he has trouble recognizing his loved ones, he remembers the words to every song he’s ever sung.

The pair now record their singing together whenever possible, and they’ve gone viral for it.

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While many hope for fame in order to obtain riches, though, Mac McDermott isn’t looking for money for himself. Instead, he gives a quarter of all proceeds he earns by selling albums of his singing sessions with his father to Alzheimer’s research—hoping that even if they can’t find a cure to save his father, they can find help for someone else down the line.

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“The plan is to share as much of Dad’s singing as we can and hopefully help raise money to fund the work of the Alzheimer’s Society—more specifically to go towards paying for a person at the end of the phone line to help other people like us,” explained McDermott.

The songs and moments may be bittersweet, especially as Ted continues to deteriorate. But the pair are continuing to find joy and love—and hopefully, are finding a way to help others in the process.

The one thing that this whole dementia experience has taught me is that the only thing that matters in life is spending time with the people you love. Here's me and my dad a few weeks back.#ENDALZ

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