FYI Daily

The Wow-Power of Music for People With Alzheimer's

Last updated: Apr 12, 2012

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If you're looking for a new way to enrich the life of your loved one with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia -- one that can soothe anxiety, magnify pleasure, pass the time meaningfully, and perhaps even spark glimpses of the person he or she used to be -- consider programing an iPod. The power of music to do all these things for those with dementia is illustrated in an inspiring new documentary called "Alive Inside," about Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings iPods to people with dementia in nursing homes.

Music therapy is increasingly used to improve the lives of those with Alzheimer's. The twist of Music & Memory is to use iPods and headphones, customizing playlists for the style and era of music that the patient loves.

"When I end up in a nursing home, I'll want to have my music with me," Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory, told ABC News. "There aren't many things in nursing homes that are personally meaningful activities. Here's the one easy thing that has a significant impact."

The documentary profiles the amazing effect the customized iPods have on seven nursing-home residents. "They're more alert, more attentive, more cooperative, more engaged," Cohen says. "Even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, they hear music and they come alive."

Neurologist Oliver Sacks is interviewed in the film about how the damaged brain can nevertheless respond to music.

Cohen's charity accepts new and used iPods and distributes them to nursing homes. In the excerpt on the ABC News site, it's pointed out that many patients' daily medication bills exceed the cost of a small music device.

The idea, of course, can also be easily adapted by family caregivers for their loved ones at home. Figure out which music is most effective for your loved one, thinking creatively about the kind of music to include. Download a great selection. Then plug in, mellow out (or rock out!), and watch your loved one enjoy.

Image by Flickr user Odenosuke, used under a Creative Commons license.