Healthy Living

Documentary explores music's effect on Alzheimer's, dementia patients

Monday, August 27, 2012

Music can be a powerful influence. Just think about how hard it is to get a catchy tune out of your mind. But researchers say music can also be used to unlock memories, especially for Alzheimer's patients. Alzheimer's experts are using the power of music to bring back memories that some thought were lost forever.

Music can transport you to a different time and place. Many Alzheimer's and dementia patients at Silverado Senior Living in Azusa can't remember their loved ones or what they did this morning, but in a music class they experienced a breakthrough.

Richard Cross, 82, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago. His wife Janet says he can't remember faces when she shows him wedding photos. But after music therapy, he's able to unlock memories of that important day. Listening to the sound of Hawaiian music brings him closer to his wife.

Alzheimer's patient Henry Dryer, 92, has been in a nursing home for 10 years. He sits motionless, barely speaks and has no idea who his daughter is.

But as you can see in the documentary "Alive Inside," social worker Dan Cohen gives Henry a sort of personalized playlist filled with music from his past. Almost instantly, he awakens.

Besides the amazing impact, researchers have also found that music reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression in Alzheimer's patients and improves cognitive function.

Experts in "Alive Inside" believe providing personal playlists is an inexpensive therapy all senior homes could adopt.

The staff at Silverado agrees, saying music therapy helps both patients and caregivers.

"It triggers the memories for the family members as well and they can share that memory together again."

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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