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Nursing Homes Learn to Provide Music Therapy for Alzheimer's Patients

Tim Slover

That’s Utah composer Kurt Bestor performing for patients at the William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home. He helped kick off the official launch of Music & Memory.  The program helps put iPods, headphones, and other listening equipment in nursing homes where patients live with Alzheimer’s disease

and dementia.  It also certifies healthcare workers to provide musical therapy to patients.

Norman Foster directs the Center for Alzheimer’s Care at the University of Utah. He says music can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s re-access long-forgotten memories.

“You may not be able to remember what you heard at the senior prom,” he notes. “But when you hear the music, all of a sudden, all the events and people around the senior prom seem to be resurrected.”

This kind of treatment is meant to provide pleasure to patients, reduce their dependence on anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety drugs, and ease interactions between patients and nurses. Deb Burcombe is with the Utah Health Care Association. She wants the impact of this therapy to be measurable.

“Every one of our buildings has gone through an extensive research study, survey process to find out exactly where residents with dementia are, what kind of meds they’re on, what kind of issues might they have,” she says. “And then six months from now we’re going to come back and look at the results.”

39 nursing facilities in Utah have completed the requirements to begin administering this therapy, and are beginning to do so.   

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