The Westhampton Free Library (WFL) and the Westhampton Care Center (WCC) have teamed up to engage community members living with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias through music. Connections between music and emotions is as old as time, and these two organizations have instituted a melody of memories for those that need it most.
According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), "Music has power, and when used appropriately music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements."
Understanding that music can help spark memory for those with dementia, the Westhampton Free Library inaugurated a program, Music and Memory, created by Dr. Dan Cohen, in 2014. The program loans fully loaded iPods featuring personalized playlists for individuals, with tunes going back as far as their childhood. The AFA also indicates, "As individuals progress into late-stage dementia, music from their childhood, such as folk songs, work well. Singing these songs in the language in which they were learned sparks the greatest involvement."
The WCC recently began borrowing the iPods for their clients, and each iPod is filled by the WFL and personalized to the needs of the Center's clients. "Music genres and particular songs are provided by the client's family and can be tweaked as time goes on," according to WCC.
The AFA further advises that positive results of such programs is because "Rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person's ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success."
Since most people can associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions that music can invoke, the AFA confirms, "The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it. Additionally, unfamiliar music can also be beneficial because it carries no memories or emotions. This may be the best choice when developing new responses, such as physical relaxation designed to manage stress or enhance sleep."
"Stimulative music activates, while sedative music quiets. Stimulative music, with percussive sounds and fairly quick tempos, tends to naturally promote movement, such as toe taps
. Slightly stimulative music can assist with activities of daily living. The characteristics of sedative music, ballads and lullabies, include unaccented beats, no syncopation, slow tempos, and little percussive sound. This is the best choice when preparing for bed or any change in routine that might cause agitation," AFA advises.
For those suffering from Alzheimer's and other dementias, as well as their families, loved ones, and caretakers, perhaps the sound(s) of music can offer some measure of peace and comfort to all.
For further information on these wonderful program, visit www.westhamptonlibrary.net, or www.westhamptonrehab.com.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.