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Update on our Music Project!

babywithheadphones

Photo courtesy of Tedsblog.

Music! Sounds, beats and familiar songs have a profound impact on each of us. We are utilizing music at Sierra View Homes in a new and meaningful way.

As I write this article today I am loading an iPod for a person at Sierra View Homes Marden’s Place memory care who has dementia. That makes 23 iPods in use in our Nursing Care and in Marden’s Place! The music project is going well. In fact, it is going much better than expected. I am amazed when I walk the halls of the Nursing Care Center and watch the residents listening to the music that brings back good memories from long ago. I watch the activity and nursing staff interact with the residents talking to them about their music and asking if they like listening to it.

The iPod project is a nationwide project called Music and Memory (see last month’s article, Bathing in Music, about the original research that began this nationwide movement).

The instructions for loading songs onto the iPod are:

* Find the songs that hold great importance of a memory in younger years,

* The song must be the exact song with the exact wording and artist, it must be the same one they listened to all those years ago,

* Keep trying until you get it right. I find myself loading the same song but different artists for different people. If you don’t get it right the music listener will quickly loose interest and will not be affected in a positive way.

In the Nursing Care Center, the iPod music has been used for a number of residents. The first one was created for a man who is quite strong and quick to become agitated. There is a change in his behavior when he has his music. He smiles, becomes calm and will let anyone around him know what he is listening to. The nursing staff ask for him to have his music at least 30 minutes before his shower because they’ve noticed that his shower is more pleasant after he has listened to his music.

IPod music has helped entertain people who don’t readily participate in activities and has given solace to someone who has terminal cancer. The iPod project has not only given the resident something enjoyable; it has also given the family something to talk about when they visit.

This individual earphone project is full of surprises. A family told me their loved one would appreciate church hymns. It was an interesting task to load an iPod with church hymns. We did not all grow up with the same hymns. I had approximately 20 hymns on the iPod when we tried it out. It was wonderful for about three days. This resident stopped trying to leave and became peaceful and was seemingly content. Then, the third day she commented as the staff wanted to give her the music, “I have listened to that for three days, I know those songs and I am tired of it.” Wow, that was the clearest and longest conversation we had in a long time! The staff was quick to ask her what music she would like to listen to. “Country,” she replied. We proceeded to find out who her favorite country artists and songs were. We then loaded her choices onto her iPod. This lady has been happy ever since. The music choices make a difference.

Our Activities Department found out recently that you have to look at all residents as someone who could benefit from personal music. Our activity staff director started singing with a gentleman who sings joyously most of the day. In order for him to sing something understandable she started singing a hymn she knew he would readily join in. What she didn’t expect was another resident, sitting nearby who has been nonverbal for a very long time, suddenly started singing along in a beautiful clear voice. This proved once again that music is a big part of our lives and can serve as a bridge between the here and now and the good memories of years past.

Music is stored in a different place in the brain than our memories. That is why someone with dementia can sing all the words to songs that were very familiar to them years ago. Music stimulates the brain and encourages thought. Some of our residents have good conversations after listening to their music. There is a peace of mind that happens when a familiar artist sings a familiar song. Music has been shown to help decrease pain, and lift and calm someone from a depression.

It doesn’t work for everyone. We have had some residents who do not respond well at all. It may be a matter of trying to find the “right” music – we’re still working on it.

If you are caring for an elderly family member or friend, you too can supply that person with a musical experience. It does not have to be an iPod you load it, can be an MP3 player or some other device. The important thing is that the “right music” can help make the caregiving task much easier.

Sierra View Homes has been working on this project for six months now and has seen impressive success! We are grateful for the generous donations from friends of Sierra View Homes and the Sunrise Kiwanis and Rotary clubs who have granted some funds to help us purchase the music and the iPods. Sierra View Homes is committed to bring quality of life to the people who live here, one iPod at a time.

About the author

Ro Linscheid

Ro Linscheid is the Associate Executive Director and Admissions and Marketing Director for Sierra View Homes Retirement Community. You can contact her at (559) 638-9226 or rlinscheid@sierraview.org.