Music and memory program connects Alzheimer's, dementia residents to their past

The Stensland's have been married for almost 70 years. (KOTA TV)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Imagine being married for almost 70 years. Now imagine all of a sudden, your partner couldn't remember you.

This is the unforgettable story of a Rapid City couple.

Meet Monty and Betty Stensland. They will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving, truly something to be thankful for.

"I'll tell you a little secret. Nobody will believe it, but we never went to bed angry with each other. We always kissed and made up and we never woke up in the morning angry, might have some thoughts in the back but we made that pact when we first got married," said Monty Stensland.

But four years ago, Betty was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

"Something will click, mostly it's if I said we've been married 68 years or so, she'll say that's a long time, I say yes, is it long enough to have a little kiss and she'll look at me and I'll say yes I am Monty and you are Betty, and she'll pucker up," said Monty.

Betty now lives at the Avantara Saint Cloud, a nursing home in Rapid City, where the recent addition of a music and memory program is changing the lives of Alzheimer's and dementia residents.

"You may have somebody who can't still do verbal language, but you put music on them and they will start to sing, so there's some type of recognition that's still there and we don't truly understand all of it but we know it's there and it works," said Avantara Saint Cloud Alzheimer's Care Director Shauna Gunnells.

Betty asks Monty to "put her ears on," when she wants to listen to her specially crafted playlist, something that instantly calms her.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's the best thing that's happened since she came in here. We got this program with the earphones and it is wonderful. When he's irritable, doesn't want to go to sleep or can't go to sleep, slip the earphones on, you want the music? Yes," said Monty.

For more information on the program, you can contact Avantara Saint Cloud at 605-343-4738.