written and submitted by Paige Hessel, Care Coordinator
Recently, a friend posted a video by French musicians, Les Rita Mitsouko called Marcia Baila. I clicked on the link and was instantly transported back to the mid-80s. Memories rushed back; dancing with friends, very late nights, lots of laughter, pancakes consumed somewhere between 2 and 3 am and more dancing. I found that I was smiling throughout the video. I commented to my friend who posted it what happy memories it brought back. Memory is a curious thing. There are parts of our memory we rely on constantly such as recalling passwords to email and to unlock our cell phones, birthdays, anniversaries, addresses and phone numbers. Then the memory we call upon somewhat frequently; where did we leave the W-2’s we got in the mail a few weeks ago? Finally, we have deep memories from our childhood and forward which we don’t necessarily recall with any frequency but they are part of the fabric of who we are and being able to get back in touch with these memories can be comforting.
The impact of music on our memories is profound and incredible. I hadn’t thought about the song Marcia Baila for over 30 years and yet when I watched the video, I easily recalled so many details of that period of my 22-year-old self. Who I was with, where we went, the cars we drove, the friends we were with. Imagine how music can impact our seniors, or those with Alzheimer’s or other memory issues!
While reading more on this topic, I found a website called Music and Memory and spent quite a bit of time reading and watching videos of how their program has changed so many lives. Music and Memory provides iPods pre-loaded with specific music for each client. Their ongoing research suggests
· Participants are happier and more social.
· Relationships between the participants, their families and caregivers deepens.
· The participants enjoy a calmer, more supportive social environment.
· The program believes that personalized music is another tool to allow professionals to work to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.
It is important to use referential music, so think about your own memories of your loved one. When you were growing up, what was the music in your household? My dad listened to a lot of Big Band records, so I know that Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller would be on his playlist. Once you assemble the music you think will be most relevant, be sure to pay attention to the reaction it evokes. Remember, a song may trigger an unhappy memory as well. There is a Fine Young Cannibals song which tears me up every time I hear it, because it reminds me of a really sad break up.
There are many resources which support the belief that music can assist those living with memory loss and the concept is really a very simple one; music allows everyone an opportunity to remember time, place, and feelings. Details may remain fuzzy, but what is important is how your loved one feels when listening to songs from their youth, or their wedding day, or maybe the day they met their first grandchild.
These are a few articles I found which were really engaging:
Music-Memory Connection Found in Brain
Help Spread the Music
Is Music Therapy and Effective Dementia Treatment?
Story of Henry – Music & Memory iPod Project – Alive Inside Documentary