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Memory Care Resources

How Music is Helping Seniors with Dementia

Music & Memory Program-

Here at The Kenwood by Senior Star, we’re utilizing iPods for one of our signature programs for residents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The MUSIC & MEMORY Program allows residents to have a personalized playlist of their favorite music. Our staff loads their song selections onto one of the community iPods. The program aims to enrich the lives of our residents by enabling them to share memories from their past, express moments of joy and happiness and provide them with a sense of calm to alleviate feelings of anxiety. You can see an “awakening” almost immediately and this video demonstrates the amazing experience a memory care resident was having.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states, “most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions. The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune from the past, immediately evokes a memory of it.” It’s also commonly believed that music has the power to boost mood and ease stress when used in the appropriate manner. There are many studies that examine the positive role and effects music can have on those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Despite the enormous sums of money spent on mood and behavior-altering medications that are often not particularly effective, nothing compares to these iPods when it comes to improving quality of life.” —Tony Lewis, President and CEO, Cobble Hill Health Center, Brooklyn, New York. The songs we love become woven into a neural tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan. What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye. A discovery from 2009 may help to explain why music can elicit strong responses from people with Alzheimer’s disease. (read more on this study)

5 Caretaker tips for selecting music for a person with dementia:

  • Identify music that is familiar and enjoyable to the person. If possible,  let the person chose the music.
  • Chose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Use music to create the mood you want, such as softer music to calm anxiety.
  • Encourage your loved one to hum along with the tune or clap and dance.
  • Make sure the volume is not too loud and avoid sensory overload by eliminating competing noises.

source: MusicandMemory.org, Alzheimersblog.org