Memory Care

Memory Care

Senior couple enjoying music's effects on dementia and memory

Memory Care’s sentimental journey.

Sarah Wylie haunts the  thrift stores of Peoria and  Phoenix, AZ, searching  dusty stacks for the perfect LPs  – Lawrence Welk, “Sing Along with  Mitch,” and Liberace. On a lucky  day, she can score an old big-band  LP in good condition for 50 cents.

As Memory Care Coordinator  at Spectrum Retirement’s Palos Verdes Senior Living, Wylie sees  first-hand how music affects  residents, including tunes from  satellite radio and piped-in  from overhead.

“We play music a lot during  meals,” she says. “They stay at  the table longer, eat more, talk  back and forth.”

She often starts the old tunes for a handful of early risers in Memory Care, triggering recognition: “My wife and I used to dance to that,” she’s heard.

Wylie also hosts “Name That Tune,” using wartime melodies or those of their 1950s child-rearing years. The game successfully prompts memories. “One will say, ‘We always used to sing that at the such and such,’ and another will answer, ‘Yeah, me, too.’”

Wylie schedules singalongs, using the group’s personalized songbook. “We’ve always got at least two-part harmony,” she says.

Finally, Palos Verdes uses Linked Senior, a web-based program that provides access to customized music, games, libraries, brain exercises, trivia and more via a touch-screen kiosk.

“Yesterday, we were able to do the sing-alongs, following a bouncing ball,” she says.

At Spectrum’s Lincoln Meadows Senior Living in Parker, CO, Alana McNeil, Memory Care Fun Coordinator, partners with a music therapist each Friday to bring music to the Memory Care residents there.

“She works with them as a group,” McNeil says. Songs entail feelings – “Good Morning” is about how the morning is going, and may be followed by wartime oldies. “They can be half asleep when she (the therapist) walks in, and by time she leaves, they’re wide awake,” McNeil says. “It’s energizing, and they’re reminiscing. Music is a universal language
– and an easy thing for them to connect with.”

McNeil uses background music to draw residents out during mealtimes, often big-band pieces. Entertainers visit twice or three times a week, she says, bringing a variety of music. One plays a banjo, another celebrates summer with baseball favorites.

Both Palos Verdes and Lincoln Meadows have a variety of musical instruments available for residents to play – during music times or on their own.

McNeil stresses the importance of music to Memory Care residents. “Music is a great way for them to get involved in everyday things, and an easy way to get into social situations and make friends.”

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