Music and Memory Program Enhances Memory Care at Judson

Ever notice you can remember all of the lyrics to a song you haven’t heard for 15-20 years?

Music can be a stress reliever and an escape from the real world. But did you know music is linked directly to improving the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia?

The Music & Memory program at Judson brings personalized music to those who are affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s. The program encourages families of residents to help make a personalized music playlist for their loved-one, with the goal of providing a means of communication and self-expression to those who have diminishing verbal language abilities.

Judson Park became certified in the Music & Memory program in 2015 thanks to a private donation from a resident’s family.

The Music & Memory Program equips non-profit organizations, like Judson, with 10 free iPods and a three-day training seminar to get the program up and running. Next, family members are given a questionnaire in which they can list what artists, bands, genres or songs their loved-one enjoys. This portion of the process is critical so the resident gets the type of music they know and love.

The process consists of a lot of trial and error, but “Much like taste in music, Alzheimer’s and dementia are very individual and person-specific,” says Jessica Kulczycki, the director of the Reinberger memory care neighborhood at Judson. She does her best to ensure each resident who participates in the program has a positive experience.

Jessica tells the story of a resident who struggles with wandering, anxiety and verbal communication. Having her listen to music clears her mind to where she can once again put coherent sentences together, and it calms her so she sleeps more easily.

“I was amazed when she bellowed out ‘Silent Night,’ clear as day! She often has trouble putting words together.”  Listening to music has also decreased her irritability. “She will dance and hum in the hallway,” says Jessica.

This resident’s daughter commented that “music has always been a part of Mom’s life and it makes her happy to hear a song that she knows.”

Many other residents have had positive experiences with the iPods, Jessica says.

“It’s amazing that songs have the ability to put them in their own musical world, and when they have their music playing, the outside doesn’t seem so overwhelming.”

Jessica enlists the help of volunteers, including students from Shaker Heights-based all-girls school Hathaway Brown, to assist with the purchasing of music on iTunes, creating playlists for each individual resident, and loading those playlists onto an iPod specific to that resident. Inspired by the project, the students will hold an iPod and MP3 player drive at the school this fall.

Jessica encourages families whose loved ones have had positive experiences with the program to give the gift of music to Judson Park and to purchase or donate iPods or iTunes gift cards.

“We’re especially grateful to volunteers who donate their time and expertise with this program,” she says

Interested in helping with our Music & Memory program? Donations of iPods/MP3 players, or iTunes gift cards are welcome!

Please contact Jessica Kulczycki at jkulczycki@judsonsmartliving.org for more information.

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