By Carolyn Kott Washburne In your late teens and early 20s, what was your favorite type of music? Rock ’n’ roll? R&B? Jazz? Heavy metal? If you’re now “of a certain age,” you might want to dust off those old records (or cassettes or CDs) and develop a playlist of your faves. Down the road, […]
By Carolyn Kott Washburne
In your late teens and early 20s, what was your favorite type of music? Rock ’n’ roll? R&B? Jazz? Heavy metal? If you’re now “of a certain age,” you might want to dust off those old records (or cassettes or CDs) and develop a playlist of your faves. Down the road, it just might help you fend off dementia.
Gerontology researchers surmise that long-term memories of music lodge in parts of the brain that have been undisturbed by dementia. Now, a new project – the Music and Memory (M&M) Initiative – is exploring the music-brain connection, and a rigorous study is looking closely at how that connection works.
The M&M Initiative is being implemented across Wisconsin in 100 nursing homes via funding from the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Families of nursing home residents offer input, and care staff set up personalized playlists on iPods or other digital devices for residents to listen to.
Some local nursing homes jumped at the opportunity to be part of the program.
“We’ve seen with our residents that music does help to reduce the use of drugs – antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants – so we were delighted to be chosen for the DHS initiative,” says Kathi Roberts, activities therapy director at Lasata Care Center in Cedarburg.
“In my career as a certified dementia practitioner and nurse, I’ve found that meds are not the answer,” says Lorna Gartzke, nursing home administrator at Shorehaven Health and Rehabilitation Center in Oconomowoc.“This initiative has the potential to offer alternatives.”
“There is ample anecdotal evidence that music can trigger happy memories and evoke positive emotions that counteract the stressful stimuli of an institution and improve the quality of life of residents with dementia,” says Kwak. “But up until now, we have been unaware of a rigorous evaluation of this popular nonpharmacologic alternative.”
The UWM study is following six residents – some chosen by staff, some chosen randomly – in each of the 10 nursing homes for 14 weeks. Each resident is given an iPod Touch with an individualized playlist along with – and this is key – an app that tracks every single song being played, and the genre and tempo of the songs.Residents also wear a wristband accelerometer (like a pedometer) that measures their physical activity in detail. The goal is to track what kinds of music results in what kinds of reactions. Student observers are also coding residents’ emotions, facial expressions, physical responses and interactions with others before, during and after listening to the tunes.