Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

Music Opens Doors To Memories

Music Opens Doors To Memories
Have you ever heard a favorite song from your distant past and immediately felt like you were taken back in time? You could see the people you were with and remember what you were doing, maybe what you were wearing, as the music played. You actually feel — mentally and physically — like you are there in that long ago moment. How can that possibly happen?

Current research finds our brains are actually hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory. According to the non-profit organization MUSIC & MEMORY®, even persons with severe dementia can tap deep emotional recall. Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.
Founded by executive director Dan Cohen, MSW, in 2006, MUSIC & MEMORY® has a simple goal: to provide new and used iPods to nursing homes so each resident can enjoy music personalized for them. In 2012, a documentary about the program, Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, helped greatly in boosting awareness and interest in the benefits of music related to memory. 
The organization's ongoing research and evaluation shows consistent results:
  • Residents are happier and more social.
  • Relationships among staff, residents and family deepen.
  • Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.
  • Staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.
  • There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives 
    professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic 
The Los Angeles Jewish Home is happy to announce our participation in the MUSIC & MEMORY® certification program. With trainings taking place for staff of the Home's skilled nursing facilities, Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), and Skirball Hospice, we will be initiating MUSIC & MEMORY® across our campuses and in the community. Approximately 25 employees are participating in the training, which includes a series of three 90-minute webinars, taught by founder Dan Cohen. The webinars provide instruction on creating an iTunes library, managing resident playlists, handling equipment and security concerns, integrating digital music into daily care plans, and evaluating the program's effectiveness.
After certification, the Home will receive one year of coaching support from MUSIC & MEMORY® to ensure success of the program and ten iPods with headphones. Additional iPods will be purchased and/or donated, both new and gently used.
Rolling out the program across the Home began with the BCSC team. Susie Fishenfeld, executive director of BCSC, previously experienced the MUSIC & MEMORY® program and knew the impact it can have on seniors as well as their families and caregivers. "Our goal at BCSC is for our participants to enjoy increased stimulation and activity.  We also believe it will be a way to bring families and caregivers closer with participants through sharing the music they love and the memories it brings."
Timothy Carlson, RN, resource clinical advisor for the Jewish Home, is serving as the point person for MUSIC & MEMORY® in other areas of the Home, including skilled nursing and Alzheimer's and dementia care. "This is a powerful program to enrich the lives, move the spirits, and stimulate the minds of the cherished seniors we care for at the Home," Tim explains.  "Music moves us all, and the MUSIC & MEMORY® program brings this truth front and center."
The Home's Skirball Hospice is also participating in the certification. "We will begin our training this month," says Lee Rothman, volunteer coordinator for Hospice and point person for this project. "We will initially introduce the program to our patients who have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's with dementia, which currently is about one-third of the individuals we serve. We are excited to be involved in this program with the goal of improving the quality of life for our patients and their families."
"We are pleased to provide MUSIC & MEMORY® in addition to all the amazing and innovative programs we offer at the Jewish Home," says Tim.
We will be bringing you updates about the program as it is implemented throughout the Home. Check out future issues of e-News and Jewish Home News for the latest information.