How musician Sarah Straub combines dementia research and music

Sarah Straub lives in different worlds. Two and a half days a week he works as a psychologist at Ulm University Hospital with dementia patients, and the rest of the week he travels from stage to stage as a musician. Pursuing a career in music has always been her dream – studying psychology is just Plan B, says the 36-year-old. Until her grandmother became seriously ill with dementia. “As a family carer, I often felt very overwhelmed and at one point developed a desire to learn more – about dementia and how I could help others in this situation,” she says.

Today Sarah Straub combines both of these features. He travels as a musician, writes his own songs, and advises loved ones to dementia sufferers at his memory clinic. She also used the Crown period to process her personal experiences into the book. “How My Grandma Lose Herself” is the name of a dementia guide. Straub is coming to Marktheidenfeld with his new album “Tacheles” for the concert on Saturday 30th July – and he has a strong message for her.

Being a creative musician on the one hand and psychological research on the other – I imagine it seems contradictory to many. How do you see it?

dust: I can’t see it at all. As a musician, my intention is to make people happy, take them out of everyday life with my music, and create moments of well-being. Honestly, that’s what I do at the clinic too. I want people who come to my memory clinic to feel taken care of and understood – for me, research is marginal. I work in research because I firmly believe that we cannot thrive without good research, but my heart is in people, not in research. My work as a psychologist and musician is therefore quite a homogeneous whole for me.

Does this mean that music and your work at the clinic overlap to a great extent?

dust: In fact, music in particular can play a very powerful role in dementia. Even if the brain is already seriously ill and many areas of the brain are affected, music is not affected by dementia. Many people can then remember their biography through their favorite song and have moments of well-being. This is extremely valuable to all those involved when you spend so much time in your daily life where you are sad because the person you love is gone. Apparently not there anymore. But of course don’t expect miracles.

Overall, I now have many beautiful opportunities to connect both worlds. I also talk about it in my concerts because I found that people are grateful when it is spoken of openly. It affects so many, so we need to break the taboo on dementia and bring it into mainstream society. I think it’s great that I can also use the publicity that I have for this music.

Do you think there is not enough talk about dementia in general?

dust: Absolutely. Dementia is still a taboo subject. People are afraid to face it, which I totally understand. But from a purely statistical point of view, every second person at some point in their life will be affected by dementia, whether as a patient or as a relative. Dementia is simply part of the reality of our lives and we should deal with it at an early stage. Even if it’s hard. Once we realize that this disease is not a horror we all think about, I hope we can be more open-minded.

What specifically would you like when dealing with dementia patients?

dust: I want people to understand that cognitive impairment doesn’t mean they can’t do anything anymore. Of course, in most cases, dementia does progress, but people don’t fall out of life overnight. We must give these people the opportunity to stay in our community center and participate in normal life. We need more knowledge about the disease in the general population so that we can deal with those who are sick in a way that will make them feel good too.

In your guide “How My Grandma Lose Herself”, you give loved ones to people with dementia advice on how to deal with the disease. What would you like to know then?

dust: Oh, there are a lot of them. For example, at that time, I did not know that there are very different forms of dementia with different symptoms and therefore different courses. I would like to know that there are not only general practitioners and perhaps neurologists, but also, for example, specialized memory clinics where you can make a differential diagnosis of dementia and obtain detailed information so that you can find the right treatment. Many believe that nothing can be done about dementia, but that’s not true. Although we cannot yet cure with drugs, we can very well slow the course of the disease and stabilize those affected by non-drug forms of therapy. This is all that nobody told me then. That is why I wrote down in my book everything that I think may be useful and helpful.

Do you bring your dementia experiences to your songs?

dust: Naturally. Actually, I always write my songs from personal experiences or emotions. For example, I wrote the song “Schwalben” which I sing with Konstantin Wecker on the album “Tacheles” as a tribute to caring relatives. Simply because I know from my own experience how difficult it is to love someone and let go of it slowly. It’s like the expected regret. You lose your partner or, like me, your grandma, while she is still sitting next to me. It’s hard to take. Therefore, I want to thank all caring relatives for their care with this song. It’s hard work and they don’t get enough publicity and sometimes too little support for it. This song is just to give them a face.

On Saturday, July 30, Sarah Straub will perform her album “Tacheles” at “Konzerte im Stadtgärtchen” in Marktheidenfeld, and will briefly talk about her book “How My Grandma Lose Himself”. More information at

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