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Petaluma singer advocates for seniors

Singer and memory care worker Cynthia Ermshar has always been passionate about acting as an advocate for senior citizens.

In her youth when she’d make hospital rounds with her father, who worked as a doctor, she noticed that older patients seemed to brighten up when she approached, and she felt as if she gained wisdom during her visits with them. She felt most comfortable with seniors and the severely ill, and says that as she grew up, she was inspired to start volunteering at retirement and nursing homes.

The 36-year-old Petaluman began working as an activity coordinator for elders, eventually moving up to management. The longer she spent time with senior patients, the more deeply she felt the call to enter the field of geriatric healthcare, hoping to make a difference.

She now works as a community relations manager at Adobe House Memory Care Community, and raises funds for the Alzheimer’s Association through local events. She said the “deepest and most challenging” part of the field is working with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“The seniors needing the best care are those suffering from dementia,” she said. “Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can have high physical, emotional, and financial costs. The change in daily activities, family roles, and decisions about care can be difficult. I knew that I had it in my heart to sit with these individuals and guide them and their families through this process. When you’re able to give Alzheimer’s patients unbridled patience and presence, beautiful things happen.”

Ermshar incorporates singing in both her work with seniors and in her efforts to raise funds for them. She sang at Memorial Day festivities at Cypress Hill Memorial Park, as well the Disabled Veterans’ Auxiliary Spring Fundraiser in Petaluma, and said some studies show that music improves certain aspects of memory among people with dementia.

“Singing for me is a time for my own self-expression, a window opening to my soul and showing my vulnerability to others,” she said. “In doing that I am also able to touch others. The absolute most satisfying part of my singing is when I do it for and with residents. I have always believed that music has power and research has now shown that it does especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. It can spark compelling outcomes even in the very late stages of the disease. Music has been an effective healing modality for dementia patients for many years now.”

Ermshar has also helped put on a car show to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association and is already working on this year’s third annual “Classic Cars for the Cure,” that will be held Sept. 24 at Plaza North Shopping Center. Last year, Ermshar placed first out of 155 Alzheimer’s Association fundraising teams for her work through the car show, where she reported raising more than $16,000.

“I am constantly doing outreach and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association and it is beautiful to see how local individuals and family businesses selflessly contribute to help change the lives of those affected by dementia,” she said. “It is through these efforts that we all can courageously partner in transforming geriatric healthcare.”

(Contact Lynn Schnitzer at argus@arguscourier.com)

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