From the Editor….
By Vicki Leeper
Years ago, when I first started at DAC NW, I put together a film event called Alive Inside. This film looked at how the part of the brain that processes music is the last to go in people who have dementia. A program called Music & Memory put the film together and they operate all across the country.
My favorite part was the way this was received in our area. Our local hospital, Pullman Regional Hospital, jumped on it and created one of the largest Music & Memory programs in the nation. But since it’s been a few years I thought I would refresh people’s memories on how music can help with dementia.
Music connects with us on an innate level and is part of our lives in so many ways. As we have just come through another holiday season, I know this connection is very real. Holiday songs that I loved as a child are still my favorite today. They instantly transport me back to my childhood home decorated for the holidays. It is part of the story of who I am.
And that is how Music & Memory works. By providing iPods and personalized playlists that are tailored to the individual, it can bring back voice and other abilities by circling around parts of the brain that aren’t working. It connects them with the times of their lives. It can reduce reliance on medication, by lessening agitation and anxiety, and can help create meaningful moments of social interaction between the individual and their caretaker and family.
My mother had vascular dementia the last year of her life and although the dementia comes on differently, we did reach a point where music and memory was tied together for her. We would play favorite music from Doris Day, Judy Garland, and she would find it calming. Eventually we got to where she would watch Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl every day – again the music was making the connection.
I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen Alive Inside to view it. And consider finding or even starting a Music & Memory certified program in your area. Collect older iPods and headphones for use with this and donate your cd’s you no longer want, no doubt that music is on someone’s playlist! You can enable someone to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.
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