Music therapy on iPods. Let's start with a quote from today's WSJ article, which gets right to the point: "Ann Povodator, an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient in Boynton Beach, Fla., listens to her beloved opera and Yiddish songs every day on an iPod with her home health aide or her daughter when she comes to visit. "We listen for at least a half-hour, and we talk afterwards," says her daughter, Marilyn Povodator. "It seems to touch something deep within her."
If you can, sit down at the piano. For several years, I played the piano in my mother's nursing home, where ladies with Alzheimer's -- who never spoke or who only swore -- would suddenly break out in song. My favorites and theirs? Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me", Blue Moon, or George M. Cohan's "Over There." Eventually I assembled their favorites and mine into a book that could provide one hour of great music -- people would dance, my mother would sing along, and all would be clapping wildly at the end during "It's A Grand Old Flag."
Or send in your iPod. If you can't play the piano or don't have one nearby, here's another option. I was delighted to read that the actual effect on the brain that I observed is now documented by scientists -- and actually improves mood, cognitive function and taps long-dormant memories. And the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, http://www.imnf.org, founded at Beth Abraham Health Services in the Bronx, NY, will program a customized iPod based on an individual's musical tastes. (Personally, I think they're missing a few songs.) They are also looking for donated iPods to use for those who can't afford.
Musically inclined -- here's another career change for you. Apparently music therapy isn't more widely used with Alzheimer's patients because of a lack of manpower. There are only about 5,000 certified music therapists and fewer than 20% work with geriatric patients. The IMNF launched the 'send in' program to help bring music therapy into patients' homes. So for you career-changers who are musically inclined, go for it.