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Music Helping People with Dementia Reduce Use of Medication

Could music minimize the amount of medication needed to reduce symptoms of dementia?

Baptist Housing, a senior housing centre in Kelowna, along with students from UBC Okanagan believes it’s possible, and is using music as a unique form of therapy for seniors dealing with dementia.

The Music and Memory project partnered up 25 UBCO students with residents who live with some form of dementia to develop a personalized music playlist as a way to minimize the use of medication.

<who> Photo Credit: UBC Okanagan </who> UBC Okanagan student Gary Su with one of the Baptist Housing clients he worked with during the Music and Memories project.

“Music is like a key to the door of their memory,” said fourth-year UBC psychology student, Gary Su.

“With each of my clients, they became more socially engaged and their mood became more positive every time I visited.”

The program is part of a Sociology of Global Aging taught at UBC Okanagan. Each student involved worked with a resident of Baptist Housing for a number of weeks to monitor and record the effectiveness of their music selections.

“Dementia and other neurological impairments can rob a person of their memory and identity,” said Clinical Educator with Baptist Housing, Rachel Lewis.

“Music has been proven to help recover memories, stimulate recognition and enhance quality of life.”

When he first began his work at Baptist Housing, Su said one of his patients was initially socially isolated, spending the majority of her time alone in her room. After just a few weeks of listening to her prepared playlist, Su would find her eagerly waiting for him to arrive and excited to talk.

“Everyone noticed a big change in her,” said Su.

The Music and Memory’s goal is to use music to reduce medication for people suffering from dementia and other cognitive challenges. The program is supported by Interior Savings and its Community Investment Fund, who donated $28,560 to purchase iPods, headsets, and iTunes cards.

“This project is groundbreaking,” said Interior Savings CEO, Kathy Conway.

“We are seeing people in our communities disconnect from their ailments, even for short periods of time, and instead share moments of connection with the people who love them and who are trying to care for them.”

“Each of them taught me something,” said Su following his weeks spent with residents of Baptist Housing.

“You see all the theory that you’ve read in your textbooks, and all the material you’ve learned and suddenly you realize it is taking place right in front of you.”

Both Baptist Housing and UBC Okanagan said they have seen remarkable results from the program so far and are eager to see the program continue.

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