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Music Helps Dementia Patients Improve Their Memory

NORTHRIDGE ( — An iPod, equipped with a personalized musical playlist, is helping seniors suffering from dementia.

For the past six months, Pacifica Senior Living in Northridge has been participating in the Music and Memory Program, in which residents who have dementia listen to music, chosen by family members, at least once a day.

Director Stacie Dawes said the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

"The music is usually the last part of the brain that, in layman's terms, shuts down. So it allows the individual who has dementia or Alzheimer's to revisit a really good time of their life," she said.

Dawes said patients have less agitation, an increased recollection and a boost in appetite.

"Even after the music is turned off and the therapy is put away, it continues so they'll either be better, they will sleep better, they will have a more peaceful day," she said.

Dr. Robert Cole, an 84-year-old former University of Southern California physics professor, prefers classical music on his iPod.

His wife, Donna, said he used to have outbursts, but after about half an hour of music, he's transformed and can remember parts of his life.

"It's brought a lot of joy to him, plus the fact that he is less aggressive and that's a big help," said Donna. "It's like he came back a little bit because he was leaving us pretty fast there."

Julius McKinsey, 77, listens to country western music. His wife, Jane, said he relives his days as a guitar player and plays without missing a beat.

"He just loves it and relates to it, it makes him happy," she said.

The nonprofit Music and Memory Program was started by Dan Cohen in New York and has spread to 140 facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

Dr. Josh Grill, an assistant neurology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, helped bring the program to Pacifica.

He said although there have been no studies on the direct correlation of music and dementia, the results are telling.

"Perhaps by using music to activate the networks that are still there, we can elevate the mood and improve the quality of life for these patients," said Grill.

To donate an iPod to the Music and Memory Program, visit Tunes for Alzheimer's Patients.

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