'Blank Stares': Stout native country singer shares song about mom's battle with Alzheimer's

Jay Allen, a Stout native and D-NH graduate, is shown with his mother, Sherry Rich, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease and now struggles with daily activities. He wrote the song "Blank Stare" about her battle, and Jay and his family are working to raise money for her care. (Photos courtesy of Jay Allen) 

Up-and-coming country singer Jay Allen – a 2004 Dike-New Hartford graduate and native of Stout who’s pursuing a music career in Nashville – has been making headlines recently with his new song: “Blank Stares.”


In his poignant and emotionally stirring new song, Allen shares the story of his mother, Sherry Rich, who is in the late stages of her battle with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The song begins with a loving voicemail Sherry left on her son’s phone, which trails off as she forgets, hanging up only moments later.


In a phone interview from Nashville, Jay opens up about his song, “Blank Stares,” and how his family – father Joe (who still lives in Stout with Sherry) and sisters Cassie and Amber – struggle to find moments of connection with their mother in between the blank stares.


“My mom’s only 53, and we started seeing the signs of [early onset Alzheimer’s] when she was in her forties; but in the last few years it’s progressed really quickly,” Jay said.


Sherry struggles to drive, work, talk, dress herself, bathe, put on her own make-up, and do other day to day activities.


But the worst part about the disease, Jay says, is the blank stares on his mother’s face.


“It feels like we’ve lost her; she’ll walk into a room and she’s just blank, like she isn’t even there. It’s crushing,” Jay said. “It’s almost like she’s a shell of our mom. It’s really hard, and it can be really frustrating. You feel helpless and angry, like there’s no solution and nothing you can do.”


As the only son and eldest child of Joe and Sherry, Jay says he’s always been a fixer. So he decided to use what he does best – music – to help his mother.


“One thing I never realized is that music is a trigger for people with Alzheimer’s; it wakes something in them up,” he said. “My dad brought my mom down to Nashville to visit last winter, and we got her all dolled up and took her a show where a friend of mine was performing. When she heard the music, she instantly woke up. She was smiling and tapping her foot to the tune.”


So Jay got her up to the front of the stage and the two started to dance.


“We got up there and she took this deep breathe, and she said ‘Jay, I’ve missed you so much, I love you,’” he said. “She just came to; she woke up. And I couldn’t shake that. I live for those moments. I hope and pray to see her again for another moment between the blank stares.”


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