Could music projects cut the cost of dementia care?

By Marti Frantz
Executive Director,
The Music Academy

The Music Academy launched its “Encore: Talent Education” program at Lincolnshire Place, a memory care residence in Loves Park last fall. Each week we work with 40 Alzheimer’s and dementia clients. Our vision is to have well trained, professional artists using a rigorous, structured curriculum with measurable outcomes to implement participatory educational programs for older adults. We see the arts are vital to healthy aging. Our view of creating community nurtures successful aging and embraces:

  1. Living with a sense of purpose, joy and a sense of well-being;
  2. Dealing effectively with life’s changes and challenges;
  3. Sustaining positive, meaningful, dynamic relationships.

Our view of dementia is as a loss of self and social identity, rather than the more common view of it as a loss of creative and cognitive skills.

Similar work is being done in England. And now, The Guardian reports that academics are studying what effect music classes (similar in philosophy and methodology to those offered by The Music Academy) offered by Manchester Camerata’s Music in Mind (MiM) are having on the people who may not be able to communicate with words. This is about coming up with the proof that there is more to music in a dementia context than just entertainment.

Alzheimer’s is a massive health and social care challenge to which management approaches are needed in a cash-strapped world. The hope of the researchers is to produce a means of measuring an individual’s experience of connection – of self and of social identity. Evaluation of MiM clients paints a consistent picture of better communication, happier and more cooperative patients, and suggests the music participation may lead to a reduction in medication required. They are even asking themselves if whether the right kind of music projects actually cut the cost of dementia care. Program Officer for England’s Tameside Public Health and a dementia champion, is clear: “This work leaves a lasting impression. The money Tameside is spending on 30-week music sessions is money well spent. Everyone should be doing it.”

In the United States, 10,000 people are turning 65 every day. Old age, once considered a time of frailty and loss, is becoming a time of potential, with people living longer, healthier lives with new meaning and purpose. The full impact of this demographic shift offers unique challenges and opportunities.

Our experience at Lincolnshire, where we have witnessed formerly mute dementia patients break into song, and where we enjoying taking patients into our arms and dancing with them, is teaching us that for many people with dementia, a well-articulated music and arts-related curriculum delivered by well-trained artist faculty members can make a real difference to their sense of self, well being and quality of life.

The Music Academy of Rockford is a not-for-profit community school of music dedicated to providing high-quality, affordable instruction and performance opportunities to Academy students, regardless of age or ability. The Music Academy’s mission is to inspire a life-long love of music and the arts in its students. For more information, call 815-986-0037 or go to MusicAcademyInRockford.com.

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One thought on “Could music projects cut the cost of dementia care?

  • March 23, 2016 at 6:06 pm
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    Yes! I think using music should be a standard of care. One excellent project is to have families create LifeSongs books. You use the 12 pages for photos to tell the person’s life story. Then there are 12 buttons to record their favorite songs. The music helps to spark memories while reminiscing. The book is very helpful for caregivers, too. You can order them at LifeSongs.info for $29.99 or less.

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