Famed Songwriter Discovers True Meaning of Unconditional Love Through Caregiving

Franne Golde is a renowned singer/songwriter, musician, and writer. Her songs have appeared on more than 100 million records worldwide, and she has worked with some of the biggest recording artists in the industry. In 2016, she started “The Perfect Black Pant” clothing line.

Amidst all her great successes, Franne discovered that Paul, her beloved husband of 29 years, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He was only in his mid-fifties. Instead of giving in to despair, she says she has discovered an entirely new definition of the word “love.” Franne hopes to be a positive inspiration to others who have taken on the role of caregiver to their loved ones.

1) How has your role as a caregiver to your husband Paul shaped your definition of love?

It has enhanced and broadened my definition of love in ways I could never have imagined. I’m more aware of the vastness of things, and my heart is more open. I feel like a bigger vessel now. My husband and I have always had an intimate, special relationship—as friends, advisors, confidants, and lovers. I miss our intellectual connection and our deep conversations, but we don’t need words to express love or to appreciate music together. I love him and everyone in my life more than ever before, and that is a direct effect of my husband’s diagnosis. Even though Alzheimer’s has changed him in so many ways, it hasn’t changed the essence of who he is or the love and good times we share. He tells me and shows me how much he loves me every day, and I do the same; that hasn’t changed in over 30 years.

2.) What has surprised you about this new chapter of your relationship?

One of the biggest surprises is that we are far more social than before! We’ve made so many new friends through the Alzheimer’s Association and Music Mends Minds. We went to CVS at Halloween and tried on all the masks and took funny pics. That’s the kind of experience Paul would have poo-poohed in the past. Paul has been able to accept his new normal with a glass-half-full mindset and hope. He continues his daily yoga practice of 20-plus years–a source of physical and spiritual well being—and he sees the beauty in everything and everyone. For me, he’s a frequent reminder of what’s right in the world. He has few filters and miraculously, never judges or complains. He truly lives in the moment. I strive to follow his lead and it has enriched my life tremendously.

3) How are you helping your husband come out publically now that he has Alzheimer’s?

We’d been discussing this for a few years and finally, the time felt right. You have to be ready before you “go public.” I helped Paul write a Facebook post that talked about his diagnosis, people’s fears, how he wanted to connect with his friends, and what he’d been doing for the last few years. I knew so many people were curious and had heard rumors about Paul’s diagnosis. This was a chance for him to come out on his terms, the way he wanted. I simultaneously wrote a piece about what we’d both been going through, and my friend, Michael Sigman, published it on The Huffington Post. It was freeing for Paul and me, and the outpouring of love and support was astonishing.

4) Do you hope to change the public’s perception of Alzheimer’s?

Every day, I try to do something to change people’s perception of the disease. People have so many preconceived ideas about Alzheimer’s. The symptoms can manifest so differently from person to person. People often react with fear or avoidance. But, this is a time when love, friendships, and community can make the biggest difference. It is so easy to assume that because someone can’t articulate or reason as they once could, that they don’t feel things the same way or know what’s going on, or that they can’t contribute. But that’s simply not the case.

5) Talk about your involvement with Music Mends Minds, which you describe as “a fantastic non-profit that brings meaning and pleasure to those with cognitive issues through the awesome power of music.”

A couple of years ago I heard about an organization called Music Mends Minds. I reached out to its founder, Carol Rosenstein, and arranged for my husband to check it out. We arrived at the Brentwood Presbyterian Church, where they meet every Monday afternoon, and my husband was ready to leave within the first five minutes. “This is not for me. Let’s go,” he protested. I understood. After all, they weren’t playing the kind of music Paul was used to or even grew up with, and he was one of the youngest people there. But, it was music, and everyone was engaged and happy.

The repertoire was songs from the Great American Songbook—a genre Paul could appreciate, but he wasn’t excited about playing. I asked if he’d go a few more times and then if he didn’t like it, he never had to go again. As luck would have it, the third time was a charm. Walking down the aisle of the church was a colleague he knew from the music business, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia whose wife told me he also wanted to leave within the first five minutes on his first visit. Paul was in tears upon seeing him and they quickly bonded over their mutual love of music. It was the beginning of a wonderful journey. Fast forward, we have made some of the best friendships, young and old. We feel loved and supported, and now we sit on the board of directors and Paul is in three of their bands and is slowly adding to the repertoire!

6) What do you want others to be aware of when it comes to early-onset Alzheimer’s?

When a loved one is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, it’s quite different than when they are in their 80s or 90s. You are stopped dead in your tracks in the prime of your life, and you are always one of the youngest people in the room.

You have different concerns and challenges. You may still have young children and family that depend on you. Also, there are far fewer programs and support groups for younger onset caregivers. Many of these groups are at times when younger caregivers are working to support their families. Alzheimer’s affects the entire family. What we all need, especially those coping with Alzheimer’s, is love, acceptance, friendship, community, compassion, and encouragement. 

The brain is the orchestra of your whole being. Sometimes the violins are singing and the cellos and violas join in, and the woodwinds take over, the flutes, Piccolos, clarinets and oboes join in, and the trombones, trumpets and French horns sound as we wait for the–not as glamourous–but ever important Timpani to play its supporting role of keeping the orchestra grooving. And then the piano takes a solo. That one instrument can bring you to tears, or fill you with joy, That’s what I want people to know about “early onset” or any stage of Alzheimer’s. There’s still an instrument making beautiful music and longing to be heard.

For more information about Franne Golde,
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