iPods Can Help People With Alzheimer's Remember

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It's a diagnosis that we dread, both for our loved ones and ourselves: Alzheimer's disease. Although at first glance, it may seem that the disease has robbed a person of their sense of self, this is not always the case. Not all people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia entirely lose their sense of self. The feelings, emotions and memories of experiences that make them who they are may still reside inside of them. It's their ability to access this sense of self that now becomes the challenge.

Scientists at research organizations, such as the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), have been studying the effects of music on the human condition for more than 30 years. And results have been promising. Now, technology is playing a key role in helping people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia reconnect to their memories and their loved ones, if only for immediate and short periods of time.

As MP3 players such as the iPod have become more mainstream, they are being used as part of music therapy. A new program, called "Well-Tuned: Music Players for Health," is helping people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease...and it is music to caregivers' ears.

Professionals from IMNF will work with caregivers to develop a play list of music that is emotionally significant to the person with dementia. The play list is customized based on the elder's life experiences, cultural backgrounds and frame of reference. As with lovers who grow sentimental when "their song" is played on the radio, the right music stimulates the personal associations that it is connected with, sparking memory and renewed "presence." It is best to select music that is familiar, enjoyable and meaningful to the elder with dementia.

How iPod music helps Alzheimer's patients with memory

Caregivers can also enhance the impact of the music with meaningful photos of family, friends or by telling family stories and talking about past events. Often, the music can spark memories that were thought to be long gone, or stimulate recognition of a loved one that moments earlier was no more than a blank face.

Music may also help a person with dementia transition more easily throughout the day. Playing lively, upbeat music can be used as a stimulus to help motivate an elder to take a walk or participate in an activity. Alternatively, slower, more calming music will help relax an elder when they are agitated or help them wind down as bedtime approaches.

The science behind music therapy has to do with the emotional connections we make to music throughout our life and where in the brain those connections live. Music stimulates the areas of the brain that are involved in emotion, association and long-term memory processes for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. As a result, musical selections that are linked to emotions and personal experiences can unlock memories and associations.

Senior residential facilities, adult day care centers, and assisted living centers are now using music therapy as part of the residents' routine.

For caregivers, seeing the light of recognition in a loved one's eyes is priceless.


For more information, visit www.musichaspower.org. IMNF works in collaboration with Music and Memory, an organization that encourages the use of personalized music on digital music players, with funding from the Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation.

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5 Comments

yes , i also realize that it may work ,Like my mom ( with parkinson ) is not responding at all .but last week when i turned TV with song of god/goddess my mom reacted . she open her eyes and she looked at TV .i mean to say atleast she responded. So i think it can be great help. Nowadays i m turning TV specilaly songs for her.
There is a company called Brain Gym based in California. Its on the internet.
They have done research on the right and left brain and ways to integrate them. A stroke as you have described the symptoms has severed that link. But it can be renewed for many with simple exercises. Try these things for example. Make a large black X on a piece of paper and post it on the wall directly in front of where your Mom sits during the day. The X helps the mind cross the "midpoint" and can improve her function. The second thing to do is to extend one of her arms forward at the shoulder level. Ask her to gave at the fingertips while you guide her arm in a horizontal infinity symbol. Do this about 10 times in a row a couple of times a day. This exercise can help "rehook up" the midpoint flow of information. The third thing to do is to either have her stand and march in place or if necessary, sit and march in place. Help her put her right hand on her left knee and then her left hand on her right knee. Assist her to do this for about 10 times as well. This will also help develop the connections to help reintroduce the right and left brain connections. I worked with a man who had been barely able to speak for several months and in one session he was about 40% improved.
Men have a worse time with speech loss than women due to their less integrated right and left brains. This site has books and trainers who are available nationwide. These are just a few of the exercises that may be able to help your Mom. Good luck! Blessings and light.
I have an idea that may or may not help, and you may need to consult with more technically knowledgeable people who can work this out and fine tune it. I am thinking it may still be possible for your mother use a keyboard to press down keys, at least with her left hand, if not a bit with her right hand, too. This doesn't mean you need to get an expensive computer ..... but it's possible you could get a small machine something like a typewriter that is much easier than a typewriter to use, and by typing onto the keys, even if only one letter at a time, your mother could make words you could read. I think there is a machine people can use that is one step up from the typewriter, also, which works like some of the ''SEE AND SAY'' toys made for kids learning to read and write. If you could consult a specialist in helping people use machines to speak or write ..... especially when they still have functional hands and fingers, I am almost sure they would be able to lead you to one of these machines .....which should not be as expensive as a laptop computer ..... and which I'm sure would come much closer to the kind of immediate communication you deserve, and make you and, especially your mom, very happy. Try starting with a speech therapist, or a professional organization in your area that handles the various needs of communication for stroke victims. Good luck!