Music and Memory Program Established at Pleasant Valley Manor
A new program at Pleasant Valley Manor in Armstrong has hit all the right notes with staff, residents and their families.
With financial support from Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation, Armstrong Legion, Armstrong Lions Club, Armstrong-Spallumcheen Health Care Auxiliary, Vantage One (Armstrong), the Armstrong Age-Friendly Society and private donations, the program was launched in the fall of 2015, becoming one of two Interior Health residences to be certified as a Music and Memory facility and the tenth residential care home to be certified in British Columbia.
Therapeutic recreation specialists Candace Hitch and Jennifer Hagen implemented the US-based program, which helps enhance communication and cognitive functions through personalized music playlists.
Based on neuroscience research on the brain’s response to music, the program was established in 2006 to help individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia and cognitive impairments improve communication, social skills and emotional well-being.
“It’s more than a program, it’s part of the care plan that we deliver to our residents,” explains Hitch.
“With some residents it’s about bringing joy to their lives, relieving boredom and easing anxiety. For others with dementia, the effects can be profound.”
Debra Colter’s 93-year-old mother Frances was one of the first residents to take part in Music and Memory in Armstrong. “I think it’s an awesome program,” says Colter. “Since Mom started, her cognition has improved to where I can actually have a conversation with her now. Before it was just jabber; she couldn’t get a thought out. I cannot believe she’s come this far.”
Debra attributes her mother’s improved cognitive function to the program.
“She is having conversations when she literally couldn’t before.”
While listening to her music, Frances exclaims, “It makes me want to run and jump and hop.”
Choosing the right music for a personalized play list involves an interview process with the resident and family that usually takes up to an hour. Once staff has compiled information on the resident such as where they grew up, music and singers they liked, and what type of lifestyle they had, they work on developing and fine-tuning the list of songs. An average play list is about 25 songs that can be changed after a period of time.
During “sundowning” time, which occurs in the late afternoon, many dementia patients can experience distress, anxiety and confusion. Using personalized music with headphones on a resident in the early afternoon before the sundowning period takes effect, helps decrease agitation and aggression.
“It’s not a substitution for medication, but it has shown to reduce the need for additional medications,” says Hitch.
“One of the first things we noticed was a resident who would frequently call out for attention, would instead be smiling, tapping her feet and enthusiastically singing. When she has her music, her incidents of calling out for attention have been reduced by about 70%,” says Hitch. “She has joy in her life and is content with her music.”
Families of residents are also excited about the program says Jennifer Hagen. “Sometimes visiting a family member with impaired cognition can be difficult as family members struggle to find things to talk about and ways to connect with their loved ones. With Music and Memory, we provide shared headphones, so families can spend quality time together bonding through music.”
The program costs $100 per resident to purchase the iPod, music and headphones.
Not only are residents feeling the benefits, staff are enjoying the positive results too. “When residents are happy and smiling, the whole atmosphere of our residence helps to increase morale and make easier interactions between caregivers and residents,” says Hagen.
In his 13 years as a care aid at the residence, and now Housekeeping Supervisor, Reg Bernard has seen many different programs come and go, but noticed a difference with Music and Memory.
“This program is dramatic. I’ve noticed residents who had experienced irritability become jubilant. Others are singing out loud and completely calm.”
Flo, 93, slowly rocks her wheelchair back and forth as she hums along to her favourite tunes such as, ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’.
“I love music,” she says. “What’s better than music? Nothing, except dancing,” she smiles. “Sitting here can be boring, but music makes it wonderful.”