According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 9 Americans over 65 years of age has Alzheimer’s disease. In Nevada, there are over 6300 individuals residing in nursing homes, one-third of these individuals having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementia diseases. This number is expected to increase 73% by 2025.
There is a program that has been sweeping the nation that improves not only the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related diseases but improves the moral of the caregivers responsible for their care; the Music & Memory program.
The Music & Memory program was created by Dan Cohen, MSW, who was a regular volunteer at a local nursing home in New York. Mr. Cohen began trying various approaches to connect with residents living with Alzheimer’s disease, and recognizing the success that many music therapy programs had achieved, he decided to take the concept to a more person-centered approach. Quite simply, he worked with family members and staff caring for residents diagnosed with forms of dementia to learn about each resident’s life experiences in an effort to learn what specific songs, or types of songs each person may enjoy. Then Mr. Cohen loaded those songs onto an iPod Shuffle fitted with headphones. As the residents listened to their music, the changes in their demeanor, mood, and ability to communicate with family & staff were both profound and immediate. These residents literally came alive when given the opportunity to listen to music that was special to them. They became able to engage in lively and interactive conversations with those around them. As an added bonus, the residual effects of their music lasted even after the music had ended.
The Perry Foundation, through a grant provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, had launched the Nevada Music & Memory Initiative based on the Music & Memory program and inspired by the documentary film, Alive Inside. The goal of this initiative was to enhance the quality of life for Nevada nursing home residents living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases while reducing the use of anti-psychotic medications. The Nevada Music & Memory Initiative concluded the first part of 2018 with very positive results.