The Wisconsin Music & Memory Initiative is a state-run effort with a few goals related to elderly dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.
When the program was recently brought to the state (from New York), 200 care facilities applied for it. The Manitowoc Health and Rehab Centre was chosen to take part. 50 residents were assessed for the program. The requirement was a diagnosis of moderate to severe dementia, and taking anti-psychotic or anti-anxiety medications.
The program is designed to comfort patients by having them listen to music from their past, given that long-term memory is usually good in dementia patients. Patients receive iPods, and music is downloaded. Families sometimes help choose the music.
The goals of the program include improving the quality of patients’ lives, and reducing the levels of their medication. It has worked.
It was initially difficult to get patients to keep their headphones on, but no longer. Some patients listen to the music for longer lengths of time. Most choose polka music. Country music is also popular.
Behaviour has changed (though it is still early to reach conclusions from the program). Residents are more cheerful. One patient commonly resisted bathing and other assistance, but after 10 minutes of Christian music was willing to accept help. Residents also share the music with each other.
The program is not expensive, has no side effects, and in the early going seems to have helped the patients. Programs like this may exist here in B.C. already, and hopefully will become more common.
This ad ran in the Richmond Review on May 16, 2014.