Alzheimer’s, dementia sufferers find renewed meaning and connection –
By Patricia Beech –
Imagine being a prisoner trapped in your own mind, unable to connect with your memories or recall the people you hold dear. For many Ohioans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, this muddled and confused state of being is their world.
“But, what if something as simple as a song could change that?”
“Music & Memory” is an organization founded on the idea that music can improve the health and quality of life for those suffering from cognitive decline. The program’s work is rooted in extensive neuroscience research, and its results are often nothing short of miraculous.
The Adams County Manor is offering its residents the opportunity to participate in the “Music & Memory” program, which taps deep memories not lost to dementia.
According to Anita Dunkin, Activities Director at the Manor, residents listening to their favorite songs triggers those memories. “It brings them back to life and it improves the quality of life for them.”
The program teaches nursing home staff and other elder care givers how to set up personalized music playlists, delivered on iPods and other digital devices, for those in their care.
According to the “Music & Memory” website, the program enables participants to “feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize, and stay present”.
“Our goal is to make this miraculous form of personalized therapeutic music the gold standard in care organizations throughout the U.S. and beyond—and train family caregivers to bring personalized digital music to their loved ones at home.”
Dunkin says the program has produced positive results for The Manor’s residents.
“We use it with patients who suffer from cognitive decline to help bring them out just a little bit, and we also use it for patients with behavioral issues, it seems to soothe and calm them,” she said. “It’s been successful, we’ve seen progress with many of our patients.”
With the help of staff and family members, residents fill out a questionnaire designed to determine what type of music they prefer based on their past musical interests and experience. Their choices are placed on a personal play list and downloaded onto an Ipod.
The music is played periodically, according to each participant’s need.
“We don’t play the music all day because then it would just be background, the residents would become desensitized to it and unable to truly listen,” said Dunkin. “The music takes them back and and draws them out of their shells so they can reconnect with their own lives.”
Ongoing research and evaluation of Music & Memory’s work in care organizations has shown consistent results: Participants are happier and more social; relationships among staff, participants and family deepen; everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment; and staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues. There is also growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.