Amazing Grace Chorus beyond beneficial

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A group raised awareness and provided comfort to Alzheimer's patients through song in Madison on Saturday.

The Amazing Grace Chorus, which is an outreach program of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, consists of singers with Alzheimer's, as well as people caring for an Alzheimer's patient.

Organizers say it benefits those with the disease in a number of ways.

"Many suffer from isolation, they have difficulty with memory and language," said Stephanie Houston, Senior Outreach Specialist with the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute. "This provides an opportunity to be socially engaged and do a brain-healthy activity as well."

The chorus is made up of 26 members and a team of conductors, and serves as a community for those participating .

"We have adapted this program, we are not a standing program, we have our own personalized song books, especially to assist with the needs when people have difficulty with attention," Houston said.

For one couple who participates in the choir, an important message they hope to convey is the need to reduce the stigma surrounding dementia and Alzheimer's.

"What's happened here, this is medical, we're dealing with a brain that is not functioning properly and will continue to go down that path," said Dan Johnson, who is a caretaker for his wife Barbara. "The best thing we can do is to keep on living, albeit with modifications."

The chorus performed after an overview and presentation of Alzheimer's and dementia by a UW doctor, followed by a panel featuring advocates and care givers.

The choir is based in Milwaukee and practices every Saturday morning. It is the second chorus of its kind in the nation.