Monday, August 15, 2016
Music therapy program helps residents with Alzheimer’s disease focus on tasks
Pauline Coker, 80, works on a puzzle while listening to her favorite music. She is one of 20 in a music therapy program. Photo: Marvin Pfeiffer /San Antonio
In a wing at Franklin Park TCP Parkway, Pauline Coker, 80, hummed “Amazing Grace” as it flowed from her iPod mini to black headphones.
She was concentrating on puzzle pieces scattered across a tabletop. Her husband, Larry, sat beside her, helping snap together the picture of a rabbit and a carrot cake.
Elsie Ramirez, 93, sat across the table from the Cokers, smiling to tunes flowing from the tiny iPod clipped to her blouse. Though hard of hearing, she occasionally sings along with crooners Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
The women, both in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, are two of 20 residents in a music therapy program that helps them focus and relive pleasant times in their lives. The sessions are part of Franklin Park’s Refreshing Waters memory care program.
Activities director Lara Sasser loaded the playlists compiled by family members onto the iPods. Selections include songs customized to each participant, from a specific stage of their lives, from childhood to young adult years.
“I think it’s important, people need to know they’re still there,” said Larry Coker, a retired Army colonel. “She’s still there.”
Coker, 80, visits his wife of 61 years every other day. He said the therapy has been a welcome addition to the senior living community. The former substitute teacher’s 30-song playlist includes Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” on heavy rotation.
In addition to individual iPods, the community also provides residents in memory care with live music each Wednesday afternoon.
Though there isn’t a cure for the disease, music therapy is one of several treatments caregivers have used to raise Alzheimer’s patients’ cognitive function.
Reports about the therapy note many people link songs to strong emotions and important points in their lives. Studies have also shown that the ability to engage in music stays intact into the late stages of the disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.”
Deanna Ramirez, 56, said music helps calm her mother, who grew up playing the piano and loving music from a very young age. Music brought her and her husband together in 1956 at a dance in New Orleans.
Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by SANANTONIOEXPRESS-NEWS
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