We all know the power of hearing a favorite song from the past. It can bring back a flood of beautiful memories and lift our spirits in an instant. The same is true — maybe even more so — for those with dementia or Alzheimer's. Music therapy is an exciting innovation in memory care that can help residents connect with the past and their friends and family.
“Music is vital to our memory care programs,” says Katie Westberg, National Director of Life Enrichment for The Goodman Group.
One of the most successful initiatives involves a partnership with Music and Memory℠, a national program specifically developed as a therapy for those with memory loss. The Goodman Group was one of the first supporters of the non-profit organization, which provides training and certification for healthcare professionals.
Music and Memory
It’s actually a very simple concept. Music and songs that are near and dear to residents’ hearts are loaded onto iPods. Ann Padovani, Director of Life Enrichment at Westchester Gardens in Clearwater, Florida explains the details: “We do a music assessment to get their favorite genres — gospel, classical, rock & roll — we have it all.” Residents and their families are both consulted to make sure they’re getting just the right music.
“The benefits of this program are so many,” Ann says. “Improved mood, decreased anxiety and depression — overall enhancement and better quality of life.”
Katie adds, “In some of our communities, we’ve layered in an intergenerational component.” Volunteers from local high schools, even middle schools, help create the playlists. It’s a joy for both generations. “They’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Katie says. “They’re so tech-savvy and that’s their space.”
As successful as it is, Music and Memory is just one of the music therapy programs that are available at managed Goodman Group communities.
Treasures of the Heart
Along with local musician, Mary Beth McCarlson, Katie developed the Treasures of the Heart™program that’s exclusive to The Goodman Group. The treasures, of course, are the songs that are familiar and beloved to residents.
Katie and Mary Beth recognized that the songs were the foundation of any music therapy program. Then they took it a few steps further. “We incorporated other senses,” Katie says.
At the beginning of every Treasures of the Heart™ sing-along, residents are introduced to a theme — thankfulness, for example. “This puts them in a specific place so they’re ready for that music experience,” Katie explains. Then there are songs that are very specific to each theme.
After each song, there’s a conversation. It starts with a concrete question. Katie uses the familiar song, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” as an example. “We might ask, ‘How many of you have ever picked apples?’” That gives all the residents the opportunity to participate. Then the discussion may turn to more abstract conversation. For example, “How might he feel if she doesn’t show up?” That opens up a whole new opportunity for residents to interact.
“At times we incorporate other props, like having pictures or even apples,” Katie adds. “So they’re not only singing the song, which is the auditory experience, but they’re touching things, they’re smelling things. All of these are enriching their reminiscing experience.”
Using music to enrich residents’ lives...Katie says that’s what the program is really about.