The healing power of music
Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:16 PM
Music can transport a person back to when they were a young child sitting on their parents’ lap, or perhaps to being a young teenager and receiving their first kiss, or their first dance at their wedding as a married couple. Music has a way of bringing back memories and even feelings. This knowledge that music can evoke memories is being used all across the country with people with varying stages of dementia through the Music & Memory? program.
Gloria Oakes Speltz of Tweeten Care Center worked with Ryan Welscher from Spring Grove Communications to learn the ins and outs of the new computer that will be used for the Music & Memory program at the Healthcare Center. The computer was made possible through financial support from SGC. PHOTO: MARLENE DESCHLER/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Their website, www.musicandmemory.org, explains their mission, “Music and Memory? is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life. We train nursing home staff and other elder care professionals as well as family caregivers, how to create and provide personalized playlists using iPods and related digital audio systems that enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.”
Tweeten Care Center in Spring Grove is in the process of implementing this program with their patients.
“I heard about this program at an activities department conference a couple years ago,” explained Gloria Oakes Speltz, activities director at Tweeten Care Center. “It really caught my attention, and I’ve been wanting to do it ever since; however, I was concerned about the cost.”
That changed when Tweeten Care Center received support from Spring Grove Communications for this program. The program helps caregivers create personal musical play lists for residents. These lists are on personal digital music devices such as iPods with headphones so that each resident can have their own music.
“Dementia patients can be overwhelmed and overstimulated by extra noises around them,” said Oakes Speltz. “Wearing headphones while listening to their favorite songs eliminates those external distractions and it doesn’t disturb other residents that may like different music.”
Music & Memory? goes on to explain, “Music is, or course, a popular recreational activity in elder care facilities, with good reason. Residents love performances and sing-alongs. Music uplifts the spirit, but group-based music programs, while meaningful, are time-bound and designed for broad appeal. Selections are age-appropriate, but not necessarily personal…. When individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia hear a melody connected with a meaningful memory, they can reawaken. Many people who have not spoken in years find words and sing lyrics. They often regain the ability to converse and connect to those around them.”
In their pilot program that they have been trained for, Tweeten Care Center will have 15 iPods. They will now be talking with residents’ family members to learn of songs that have special meaning to that person to compile a personal play list. Their goal is to have at least 100 songs for each personal iPod.
“It would be great to have iPods and personal music lists for all of our residents,” commented Oakes Speltz. “Our goal would be to have 40 to 50, but we will begin with our pilot program of 15 and continue to build on that. It is a fascinating project!”
Music & Memory? recommends having one computer dedicated to this program and the residents’ music lists. With the financial support from Spring Grove Communications, Tweeten Healthcare was able to purchase an Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer.
“We are excited about this project and thankful for the support from Spring Grove Communications. Their support enabled us to begin this program sooner than later,” added Oakes Speltz.
The next three to four months will be spent doing music assessments on the residents and purchasing the music for the iPods. Then it will be time to fully implement the program. Tweeten Care Center staff has been undergoing training for this program and the program will continue to provide a full year of coaching support to ensure that the facility is successful with the program.
“Music & Memory is designed for people with dementia, but it can also benefit others as well,” explained Oakes Speltz. “For example, for someone that is undergoing hours of dialysis, having their own personal music play list to listen to can help occupy their mind as they wait. It can also help people with pain and depression. In the future we want to be able to utilize this program for everyone.”