Photo: Paula Cody (left), Director of Social Work at INTEGRIS in Miami, Don Henderson, INTEGRIS Director of Behavioral Health and volunteer Pam Clark have been working on the Music and Memory Program at INTEGRIS Generations. The program assists patients with Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and other disorders to help stimulate emotions and memories. The patients receive an iPod with a personalized playlist of songs that make them happy and has proven to be very successful.
MIAMI— A music and memory program used at INTEGRIS Generations Outpatient Services in Miami has helped benefit patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, anxiety and numerous other disorders.
Generations provides behavioral health services to seniors 55 years and older. The Music and Memory Program has been proven successful in stimulating different parts of the patient’s brain and recreating memories. A study of the program, which is in hundreds of nursing homes across the U.S. and Canada, is being led by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is the largest yet on its impact according to program founder Dan Cohen.
“We found this program out of Milwaukee, Wis., called Music and Memory,” director of Social Work at INTEGRIS Paula Cody said. “We knew the effects of music on the brain was impactful in all ages. The program has been very successful.”
For example, patients who have Alzheimer’s who experience emotional distress can be given an Ipod with a selected play list to help appease their negative emotions. The program began at Generations about a year ago, and its staff were officially certified in the program in April. After being certified with training, the staff received 10 iPods to be used in their unit. With the help of donations like iPods, CDs and iTunes cards, the program is able to expand its services to a larger number of patients.
“There’s something about music in the brain, when everything else is gone, our connection to the music is still there,” Cody said. “It’s amazing.” The program originally started as a way to help the increasing number of patients who were in the later stage of Alzheimer’s with behavioral disturbances. This means that the parts of the brain are no longer working like it should be. Generations staff were looking for an alternative source to medication. “The Alzheimer's patients with behavioral disturbances cannot regulate their own behavior, so they need assistance in doing that which sometimes requires medication, a structured environment, those kinds of things,” Cody said. “We were looking for something that could help us besides using a higher dose of medication.” It is often said that music is the best medicine, and research is quickly finding this statement to be true. The process begins with music selected from the patient’s childhood like “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” or “You Are My Sunshine.”
“Neuroscience research says if we can get a play list of music that the patient liked between the ages of eight years old on up to about 25, it will stimulate emotions and memories,” Cody said.
Instead of resorting directly to medication, the Generations staff has been using music as a way to help the patient. The staff has seen a decrease in medication use for the patients who are involved in the program.
“We usually like to ask the patient if they’d like to listen to music if they’re having a bad day,” Cody said. “Sometimes, we leave it on for about 30 minutes and see how they do. There isn’t a specific time limit each patient gets with the music. It’s varied. It’s when someone needs it or wants it. “You can see a decrease in the use of antipsychotic medications for patients. Instead of giving the patient medication, we give them an iPod.”
Don Henderson, Miami INTEGRIS director of Behavioral Health, said he has seen a decrease in patient’s negative emotions like depression and agitation since the program was launched at Generations.
“My mother died of Alzheimer’s,” Henderson said. “Families are looking for anything that can provide some peace, comfort and happiness to their loved ones who are experiencing Alzheimer’s. Medications are great. They work, but they don’t provide the smile and intent that music can provide.”
Lance Littlejohn, INTEGRIS activity director, and volunteer Pam Clark have helped Cody and Henderson utilize the program’s full potential. Clark works long hours to compile play lists for the patients. She even has family members of the patient record encouraging statements onto the iPod for the patient to listen to after a song. “We put prayers on the iPod and words from the family members,” Cody said. “It’s not just about music, there are all kinds of things we put on there.” Since the program has been successful with Alzheimer’s patients, the staff decided to expand it to patients who have other mental illnesses.
“We’ve seen the program work so well, we thought we’d try it in other areas,” Cody said. “We have a lot of patients we work with who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and anxiety.
“It gives them joy and gives them peace. When you listen to music, you get happy, you tap your feet and clap your hands. People who have depression get better with this program. It’s exciting to see.”
Currently, the program is only being used in outpatient services, but Generations hopes to expand it to other areas of the hospital.
“To me, we have not scratched the surface with what we can do with this program,” Henderson said. “We’re learning more each and every day. It’s volunteers like Pam and professionals like Paula and Lance, who make this program work. We’re thrilled at the opportunity.” Henderson said he cannot think of a single patient who did not benefit from the Music and Memory Program.
The program is always seeking donations for iTunes cards, iPods and CDs. Individuals who would like to donate are asked to contact Kay Walser at the auxiliary department at 918-540-7187.