Music jogs memories for Imboden dementia patients.

By EMILY STEELE H&R Staff Writer
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DECATUR – It's hard for Rita Raupp to recall names and faces anymore, but when she hears music, her memory starts to comes back, and it's enough to make her dance.
About half of the residents at Imboden Creek skilled nursing facility have some type of dementia. Raupp is one of them, but when a pair of headphones is gently placed over her ears and music from her generation starts to play, she starts to move.
“She's the perfect person for it,” her daughter Linda Raupp Brilley said. “It just lifts her spirits. Whenever she hears music, she tries dancing.”
The Music and Memories program is new at Imboden Creek, but already staff and family members have seen encouraging responses from clients with Alzheimer's disease.
“Seeing my residents and what it does with Rita is so wonderful,” activity director Robin Luna said.
Once a day she pulls out a box holding five small iPods and decades of music. Luna clips the portable music player on to patients, turns up the volume and waits. Toes start tapping and smiles appear.
Five minutes later, Luna hits pause and asks what the music makes them think of, and clients who were previously mute are able to respond.
“It triggers a portion of their brain that brings back memories,” Luna said.
It also helps reduce anxiety and behavioral issues. Luna has been dreaming about setting up a music program like this for years.
“We'd both seen a lot of research in regards to the positive responses and results from that type of interaction,” Imboden Creek administrator Molly Carpenter said.
When listening to familiar music, unresponsive or ornery residents would start clapping their hands and smiling. Carpenter remembers that years ago a resident's wife would bring in a CD player to play music for her husband.
“And there was this nonverbal resident with those headphones on he would be mouthing the words,” she said.
They hosted a fundraising dinner for the families and raised enough money to buy five colorful iPod shuffles and headphones, more than Luna had expected. One family even donated an iPod they weren't using.
Staff began interviewing client's and their family members to learn their music preferences. Each iPod was loaded with a specific genre of music, including country western, rock 'n' roll, big band, swing, jazz and religious.
“At this point, I know who likes what,” Luna said.
Music and Memory is a national nonprofit organization aimed at improving quality of life in the elderly through music technology.
The 2014 documentary, “Alive Inside,” shows its positive effect, using music to tap into the right lobe, or creative side, of the brain.
The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine started its own branch of Music and Memory last year at its Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in Springfield.
Carpenter said she wished they'd done the personalized music program sooner.
“It's a disease with so many mysteries to it,” Carpenter said. “So if we can tap into something that's going to bring positive results, there's no reason not to.”