Elderly man listening to music with headphones

Music Enhances Alzheimer’s and Dementia Therapy

November 23

United Hebrew of New Rochelle Brings Music & Memory™ to its Campus of Comprehensive Care 

Long an essential element of memory care at United Hebrew, music therapy helps ease agitation experienced by those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Singing, playing chimes, or simply listening to therapists perform music — whether in group or individual sessions — bring a sense of calm and enjoyment to residents in our memory care settings, and help them manage their emotions.

Now, we are enhancing our music therapy offerings with the introduction of the personalized music program known as Music & Memory. This will be a boon to the 150+ memory care residents on our campus — in our skilled nursing nursing home, and at Willow Gardens Memory Care and Willow Towers Assisted Living. Staff trained in the program are working with resident families to create customized playlists with their loved one’s favorite music that will be loaded onto MP3 players for individual use.

“Music & Memory adds a new dimension to our therapeutic program,” notes Rita Mabli, our president & CEO. “It’s a natural extension of our personalized approach to care, yet another way to reach our residents to help them connect to the world around them and enjoy the best possible quality of life.”

Music soothes the soul — and so much more

The connection between music and memory is well documented. Research has shown that music is effective at embedding in our brains information and events. Interestingly, music memories may last long after forms of memory have disappeared. That’s why many of us can sing a song from our childhoods but forget where we just left our car keys. Recent research published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care has shown that Music & Memory can reduce stressed behaviors and use of antipsychotic medication in Alzheimer’s patients.

“Our goal is to help our residents use music to refocus their attention away from what’s distressing them,” says Deborah King, who is serving as United Hebrew’s Music & Memory administrator. “We want to help calm and soothe them, reduce their anxiety, and improve their mood.”

King is coordinating family interviews to determine the best musical selections for each resident. “That might mean a lullaby from childhood, a rock and roll song from their teenage years, a wedding song, favorite church music, folksongs, or big band tunes,” says King. “Typically, we select favorites from their younger years.”

Music favorites from a person’s formative years tap memories not lost to dementia and can bring listeners “back to life.” This enables them to feel like themselves again, and they converse and socialize, according to research by the Music and Memory organization.

“We’re already seeing positive results,” adds Mabli. “Our goal is to roll out this program to every resident on our campus.”