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Music Connects Dementia Patients with Past Memories

Location : Home Office 
Musictherapy ENRICHED

Some believe that music is the key to the soul. At Silverado, we know that music therapy has a unique way of touching individuals affected by memory impairment. And we are not alone. Director Michael Rossato-Bennett explores this theory in his award-winning 2014 Sundance Film Festival documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory”. The documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen as he launches a campaign to bring music therapy to senior care homes and explores how music can be a catalyst in helping dementia patients reconnect with the past.

Henry Dryer, one of the seven music therapy patients featured in the documentary, shows an extraordinary reaction to the therapy. During a clip in the film, Henry, a 92-year-old gentleman with dementia, is slumped over in his chair and disengaged from his surroundings. However, once his caregiver puts his headphones on, Henry begins to move to the beat and even starts singing along to his favorite song. Henry explains, "I feel a band of love, dreams. It gives me the feeling of love, romance!”

Similar reactions are seen across all of the profiled individuals. Rossato-Bennett explains, “There are a million and a half people in nursing homes in this country. When I saw what happened to Henry, whenever you see a human being awaken like that, it touches something deep inside of you.”

Geri Hall, a specialist from Banner Alzheimer’s Institute of Phoenix, shares that music triggers a part of the brain that remains active despite neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Hall suggests that activating this area of the brain increases socialization in dementia patients.

During its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the documentary was highly praised and honored with the 2014 Audience Award for U.S. Documentaries. As the documentary gains more exposure, it is likely that further research in the music therapy field will be explored.

At Silverado, we’re excited to see increased interest in the topic — it’s something we witness regularly in our memory care communities!

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