Last week, Shavano Park Senior Living Center partnered with M.U.S.I.C. Project, the Alzheimer’s Association and several corporate sponsors to offer a screening of the 2014 award-winning documentary, Alive Inside.
The film follows social worker, Dan Cohen, and his organization, Music and Memory, as he repeatedly demonstrates the power of music in awakening dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. On November 18, 2011 Music and Memory posted a clip on their YouTube channel showing the miraculous responsiveness and alertness generated in Alzehiemer’s patient, Henry. Shortly thereafter the video went viral on Reddit.
Dr. Sacks, who narrates the clip, references a quote by Kant, “music is the quickening art,” and explains that Henry’s animated state results from a temporary restoration of himself catalyzed by remembering his identity. Amazingly, this change is brought about by a playlist of songs that were emotionally laden for Henry and were all contained on an iPod for him to listen to at his leisure. Additional research is cited whereby the importance of music that has meaning for the individual is emphasized because it must be correlated with memory and feeling to be effective. Later in the film Dr. Connie Tomaino explains, “by exciting those pathways we have a gateway to reach someone who otherwise is unreachable.”
Particularly appalling is the current standard of care in nursing homes where seniors are often dispensed antipsychotic and mood altering medications in order to treat their behavioral and emotional problems that likely result from long periods of idleness and extreme solitude. The M.U.S.I.C. Project website offers some unpleasant statistics: 90% of nursing home residents’ time is spent being idle and only half of them have visitors. It is no wonder that many nursing home patients turn inward for comfort and begin to deteriorate. The film calls for a revisiting of our relationship with our elders who, despite what we are told, are very often still capable and who have wisdom to share with us.
At the end of the screening, the audience was visibly moved by the touching stories. Emcee, Helen Flores from Caring Companions, cheerily reminded them of the purpose of the evening and then offered up the names of the winners of the prizes from the evening’s raffle. After a brief Q&A, people lined up to talk to the organizers of the event and gathered round in discussions with each other. It was heartwarming and motivating to see the community meet for such a noble cause. Several attendees even offered large bills for small tickets and told the organizers to keep the change. A total of $3900 was raised and will be equally split between the M.U.S.I.C. Project and the Alzheimer's Association for the implementation of iPod's in nursing homes, the vision of Dan Cohen's Music and Memory organization.
Tim and Candyce Slusher created the M.U.S.I.C. Project along with president and bassist from Pop Pistol, George Garza, with a shared interest of bringing music to the community. Candyce, a nurse with many years of experience in caring for the elderly, will be working with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services in order to oversee the implementation of the Music and Memory project at two local nursing homes, Stone Brook Manor in October and Oak Park in November.
This collaboration of non-profits, state and local organizations in an effort to improve the quality of life for the elderly is a real testament to the power of the arts, how things can change, and how we can build better communities. If you would like to donate, get more information or get involved you can contact M.U.S.I.C. Project here for more information.
Please join M.U.S.I.C. Project and the Alzheimer's Association for the Walk To End Alzheimer's and iPod Drive for the Music and Memory program this Saturday. The walk starts at The Park at River City Community Church 16765 Lookout Rd. San Antonio, TX 78154 - September 19, 2015 at 7:30 am.