“Music and Memory” helping those with dementia

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) -Ohio’s Department of Aging is using fines from nursing home violations to help patients with dementia.

Betty is a 93-year-old resident at Kingston of Miamisburg Nursing Home.

“She has severe dementia and she has anxiety,” said Joni Kancevicius, the activity director the nursing home.

Betty has a hard time putting together coherent sentences and when she’s talking, it’s usually in chants. Her dementia is so bad, she doesn’t even know her own daughter.

“Usually she either doesn’t talk to you or she does this chanting that she’s doing now where she just repeats over and over and you don’t know what she’s talking about,” said Renner.

The staff here thinks she’s a good candidate for a new program Ohio is starting to bring into nursing homes. It’s called Music and Memory. The goal is to use music from Betty’s past to spark her memories.

“There’s a very powerful connection between music, emotions and old memories,” said Neurologist, Dr. Kenneth Pugar with Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders.

The state has $400,000 to use from nursing home fines to fund the project.

Staff talks with family to find out what music that particular resident grew up with or liked. Then, they put the songs on an iPod and step back to see what happens.

Just like that, Betty was dancing, talking and even singing along.

The music even sparked a memory.

Joni: “Did you used to go dancing to this?”
Betty: “Yes. We had a separate place to go to.”

The theory behind the Music and Memory program is pretty simple and it’s something most everyone has experienced.

“How many of us hear a song and remember where we were in our lives when that song came out or what we were doing when it was popular,” said Dr. Pugar

Dementia effects certain areas of the brain more than others.

“Music is integrated and controlled by multiple areas of the brain. So there are many more interconnections. That’s why we feel that music is preserved much longer,” said Dr. Pugar.

This is not a cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s merely a tool to help patients like Betty have a better quality of life. Oak Creek Terrace Nursing Home in Kettering is also using the program.

They are already seeing a difference with Marjorie and Alvina.

While the program’s main focus is to help those with dementia, it’s also helping their families.

“It makes me want to cry. I lost my mom a long time ago..and it’s like she has come back,” said Renner.

The nursing homes participating in the program could use your help with donations of iPods and iTunes gift cards to buy the music. You can drop them off right at the nursing home.


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