In October 2015, we reported that the Smith Care Center (SCC) began a new pilot program called the Personalized Music Therapy Program. This program includes the use of iPods and personalized music playlists as an enjoyable therapeutic activity. The purpose is to calm unwanted behaviors frequently associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions, thus creating an alternative to the use of pharmaceuticals. For this reason, the initial target population included SCC residents who have experienced behavior and personality changes, such as agitation and restlessness.
SCC Activities Director Judy Sarnowski headed the program, modeling it after Music & Memory, a non-profit organization that created its own personalized music program. Judy says that Music & Memory got her thinking more about how she could modify certain aspects of their program to fit needs that were specific to Smith Care Center residents. So, before launching the three-month program in October 2015, Judy did her homework.
In addition to identifying three program participants and speaking with their family members for permission, Judy made the following modifications to the program:
- She set a 30-minute time limit. Music & Memory has no limit, but due to short attention spans, Judy decided to limit the exposure for our residents.
- She used the iPod Mini. Music & Memory uses an iPod Shuffle. However, SCC used the iPod Mini for greater programming capabilities, which ultimately helped to increase personalization.
- She used over-the-ear headphones. Music & Memory uses “ear buds,” but Judy went with over-the-ear headphones for greater comfort and compatibility with hearing aids.
- She used a personalized questionnaire to help create each playlist. Judy compiled a questionnaire for each resident’s family member to complete. This questionnaire helped to elicit different memories by asking questions, such as “What is your favorite movie?” and “What is a song that was played at your wedding?”
Judy and her team have been compiling data throughout the program, and have already seen a noticeable difference. The pilot program ends on December 31, 2015, and at that time, Judy will compare data from the three month-period to data that was produced before the program started. Stay tuned for an update in early 2016 regarding the final results.