Musical memories: A care home’s novel approach to advance quality of life

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By Rumana D’Souza

Caregivers at a Sidney care home are using an important tool to address the cognitive and emotional symptoms of dementia among residents—the power of music.

The music therapy program at Sidney All Care Residence in British Columbia goes beyond playing music for residents in common living areas. Staff work with families of residents to compile a list of songs or instrumental pieces they once enjoyed. They then create personalized playlists on iPods for the residents.

Judy Peterson, Community Enrichment Manager at Sidney All Care Residence, says the program was inspired by the 2014 movie Alive Inside, which follows a social worker who brings music to seniors with dementia in care homes. The program at Sidney All Care currently has 20 iPods in circulation which are mostly used on the residence’s advanced dementia floor.

“The results have been phenomenal,” Peterson says. “We have a resident who is often agitated, and when we put the iPod on, she calms down and she starts singing.”

Many recent studies can explain why seniors come back to life and feel like their former selves when they listen to music. Music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, emotion, speech and language. A growing body of evidence shows music helps retrieve stored memories, as well as create new ones.

Peterson credits the program’s success to the collective efforts of residents, staff, family and the community. “The families love it! One family member donated 10 new iPods for the program.”

There is currently a waitlist for families who want to create personalized playlists for their loved ones, and Peterson says they’re working on getting more iPods to grow the program. “It’s a process to get it up and running because each iPod must be individualized. We’ve been working on it for a year now, and we’re not where we want to be yet, but what we have now is great!”

In addition to music therapy, Sidney All Care Residence also has other quality of life programs for its residents. “The Buddy Bingo program pairs our more “cognitive” seniors with residents who have dementia. They help them play the game, and they get to know each other,” Peterson says. “The buddy system helps create bonds, and goes a long way in reducing loneliness among residents.”

Rumana D’Souza is the Digital Media & Communications Coordinator, BC Care Providers Association.

 

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