iPods Aid Dementia Patients


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Christine Raber, PhD, shares the latest research on the effects of music on the memory of dementia patients. Dr. Raber is seen holding an iPod which is a key component of this most recent study.

Christine Raber, PhD, a professor of the Masters of Occupational Therapy program at Shawnee State University, recently spoke to the Portsmouth branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Her presentation revealed how the use of individualized digital music playlists have helped dementia patients reconnect with the world around them.

Dr. Raber has taught Occupational Therapy for 31 years and supervises service learning experiences in several long-term care settings such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She has extensive clinical experience in a broad range of practice settings and is an Eden Alternative Associate. Eden Alternative is a non-profit organization that promotes quality care for the elderly.

Dr. Raber began her presentation “Music and Memory for Dementia Patients” by running a clip of the documentary film “Alive Inside”. The movie showcased the work and positive outcomes of the Music and Memory organization that was founded by social worker Dan Cohen. After a six minute viewing of the film trailer, Dr. Raber pointed out that the area of the brain that processes music is near the memory portion of the brain. As a result, dementia patients can find words that they couldn’t verbalize before. The film showed how dementia patients suddenly become “alive” once they were given headphones and an iPod of familiar music.

The late Oliver Sacks, MD, a neurologist who wrote best selling books based on his case studies, was also featured in the documentary. He referred to music as “… the quickening art.” The film showed how animated one dementia patient became after listening to his favorite tunes using headphones and an iPod. Dr. Raber observed, “Through the Music and Memory program a patient’s thinking becomes more organized and brings a sense of identity to patients who up until this point were unresponsive.”

The Ohio Department of Aging has embraced this person-centered approach to dementia. In fact, Ohio was the third state in the U.S. to launch this program.

Dr. Raber explained that in order for the music and memory program to succeed, a personalized playlist had to be created; and caretakers had to figure out the optimum time when the music therapy would render the best results in individual patients. The timing of the program was based on the personality and needs of each individual.

According to Dr. Raber, music improves lives by replacing confusion and depression with cooperation, increased attentiveness, sunnier dispositions, better connections with others, and less wandering and restlessness. Another bonus of the program is a reduction in the use of medication. Consequently, music therapy has even been used with end of life care and pain management.

Dr. Raber concluded her presentation by suggesting ways the membership could help the Music and Memory initiative. She proposed organizing and donating new and gently used iPods to the project. Another idea that was offered was the donation of iTunes and iPod gift cards. And of course, volunteers are always welcome at Memory and Music sites.

Additional information on music and memory can be found on the Ohio Department of Aging website http://aging.ohio.gov/services/music-memory . Caregivers can request a free guide, “How to Create a Personalized Playlist for Your Elder at Home” by completing and submitting a request online. Certified care facilities in Ohio can also be located on this web

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