Music: Treatment for Dementia — Update

The post-film discussion at the Rubin Museum

The video clip I posted last week from the movie Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory has “gone viral.”  There were well over 6.5 million views as of last Saturday, when I saw the documentary and post-film discussion and spoke with Dan Cohen, the social worker who started the ipod project.  Here are a few points I took away from the experience that might be helpful for readers considering individualized music for their residents with dementia:

  • While all music can be beneficial, studies of the brain show that different parts “light up” when a person hears the music that is most connected to them.  In other words, individualized music has a greater impact than the songs played for a group.
  • The music that tends to resonate most for people is that heard during their formative period of about 15-24 years old.
  • Dan Cohen’s Music and Memory organization has an 5-hour inservice that trains staff on how to use the devices with the residents, and answers common questions such as those regarding infection control and on securing the ipods so they don’t get lost or stolen.
  • The time spent by staff on the program is more than made up for in reduced time in other areas because the residents tend to be happier and more cooperative.

Here’s an interesting interview with social worker Dan Cohen on NPR: Treating Dementia with Music


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