The healing power of music on the mind

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The power music has over the mind is something scientists and doctors have studied extensively. But a new program making it's way to Nevada is proving that music can heal.

Many of the patients at the Rosewood Rehabilitation Center in Reno are long-term patients recovering from strokes or living with diseases like Alzheimer's. In that situation, it's easy to become depressed. That's why caregivers are looking to a program called Music and Memory to help improve the quality of life.

"Music is everybody's language," Arlene Pierce, activities director at Rosewood Rehabilitation Center said. "I don't care where you come from, what culture you come from, music just soothes us."

It's a nation wide program making it's way here. Created by Dan Cohen, MSW, the program creates customized playlists for each patient.

"Something that reawakens that individual based on music that brings them back to a certain part in their life," Robert Kidd with the Perry Foundation said.

The Perry Foundation is responsible for bringing the program to Nevada. Through a grant, the Perry Foundation has been able to bring this program to several long-term care facilities across the state. In Nevada, one-third of all people in nursing homes have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementia diseases.

"We've known there's been a connection between music and neurological connection for years," Kidd said. "But it's taken the founder of Music and Memory to put it into a protocol."

That protocol includes interviews with the patients, when possible, and their family members to find out what kind of music the patient enjoys. That music is then placed on a iPod and the patient then in submersed in a world of music from their past.

Though the program has only been in Nevada for a month, caregivers are already seeing results in patients like Lee.

Lee is a music lover. In fact, it's easier for her to say what kind of music she doesn't like.

"I don't like rap and I'm not crazy about classical, but I like everything else."

She especially loves The Eagles. Something that's evident when she puts on the headphones, and her custom playlist begins.

Immediately tears fill her eyes as she sings along to her favorite songs. She also tells the story of when she saw The Eagles play live.

Lee has only recently started sharing these stories again since beginning the Music and Memory program.

"It just takes me away from where I am and back to where I use to be," she says. "It makes me feel more like the person I was. It gives me hope of going back again."

It's not a cure for Alzheimer's or other dementia related diseases. But other programs across the country have seen similar positive results.

"The music can take their mind off of pain, make them less irritable," Kidd said. "That will reduce the amount of medication they need to function. Certain music can really affect certain people at different parts of the day. It can help them eat better, help them go to sleep better, help them with the pain."

And because the music is on a portable device, any patient can benefit.

"Somebody may be bed ridden," Pierce said. "Maybe somebody chooses to not be a part of the group. We can bring that program to their rooms."

In the next two years the Perry Foundation hopes to bring the Music and Memory program to 43 different long-term care facilities in Nevada with a goal of helping about 900 patients. To learn more about the program, click the link attached to this story.