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Music therapy -- new program with pre-loaded iPods for Alzheimer's

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,, 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.




My mother had a small but significant stroke that affected her executive functioning and later developed into stroke-related dementia. Without much thinking my brother (a psychiatrist) and I got a small boom box and played music from the 1930s and 1940s for her entertainment, and she responded well to it. She especially loved Frank Sinatra, even though when she was well, she never expressed much interest in his music (although she liked him and her family knew his first wife's family). She'd also flip thru books about him and until the last few months recognized him. Had we known a little more about music therapy we could have done more, as Mom was responsive to it until near the end.


I too have witnessed the incredible power of music. My good friend, Maestro David Dworkin leads a music program, called Conductorcise, that combines aerobics with classical music. I think this NBC Today Show segment captures the magic of CONDUCTORCISE beautifully:

I can tell you from seeing Maestro lead classes at retirement communities, music has magical powers.




I am a board certified music therapist and I have 20 years of experience working with a variety of individuals with behavioral health needs. I want to provide clarification to what has been written on this page.

Music therapy is a field where qualified professionals, board certified music therapists that have studied a minimum of bachelor's studies to improve physical, behavioral, physiological functioning with strategic musical tasks.

Although many are seeing great responses from the use of music with their loved one. There needs to be a distinction between what the lay person uses music to gain a response over what is truly music therapy provided by a clinical music therapist. The clinical music therapist provides assessment and treatment based on the client's need and is carefully thought out based on evidence informed practice.

It is wonderful to see the excitement that individuals are seeing from their loved ones and music, but only music therapy can be conducted and provided by a clinical music therapist.

Best of luck with your loved ones and help us spread the word as there is great effects of clinical music therapy with individuals with Dementia and music therapy.



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