Music has the power to lift spirits, spark memories and quiet the mind. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have also found that the ability to remember music can be preserved even in the late stages of Alzheimer Disease. Music therapy is quickly gaining a foothold as a low-cost and safe intervention which may decrease agitation and improve social interaction in patients with dementia.
According to Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and psychologist best known for his book Awakenings, cognitive function has been found to improve with personalized music therapy. He has also observed that some patients with Parkinson’s Disease who may not be able to talk well are still able to sing perfectly. Some who couldn’t walk were able to dance. Music is also used to help stroke patients regain their ability to walk and talk and has found success in helping children with autism to identify and express emotion appropriately.
With all the supporting evidence around music and its help in treating dementia, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto has piloted The iPod Project. Customized iPod shuffles are provided to patients with a formal diagnosis of dementia who reside in Toronto. The project provides personalized playlists to a caregiver as long as they are willing to compete an entry and exit survey for the society. Other communities such as London, Ontario have also instituted the Music and Memory iPod Project. For more information or to donate an iPod shuffle to the project, contact you local Alzheimer’s Society.