100% Efficacy for Improving Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients?

This post deviates from our normal posts.  It is not about careers.  It is not directly about science and research.  But it is about results.  I recently attended a conference and had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dan Cohen about the use of music as an aide to improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Music is able to accomplish this by engaging the whole mind and body.  Dan Cohen gave several examples of success stories, but one of the more powerful was Henry.  As you can see in the video, Henry was unresponsive, irritable, depressed, and at times didn’t even recognize his own daughter.  After just a few sessions of listening to music that was personalized for him, not just songs from his generation, but songs he actually used to listen to and enjoy, Henry became animated.  He began to sing and dance and he became responsive to questions and engaging. 

While Dan was not an especially polished speaker, his message was clear…personalized music is more effective than any medicine currently on the market at increasing quality of life for people with dementia.  This is a sentiment that is echoed by many, including Dr. Oliver Sacks who authored Musicophillia and Dr. Peter Davies who has been instrumental in the development of several drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease (such as Aricept).  The Music and Memory program has been implemented in over 60 nursing home/adult care facilities across North America since its inception 7 years ago and every single one of them has continued the program.  My question is this…why is this inexpensive (the cost of iPods, earphones, and music-if they are not donated) and easily implemented (just find out what music they like and download it on the iPod) program not established in every adult care facility in the world?  In the US alone there are over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated cost to/on society of ~$200,000,000,000/year.  Add to that the cost to bring an Alzheimer’s drug to market.  Now think about the efficacy of that drug.  Add in patient compliance and potential side effects.  Is there really any comparison?  The Music and Memory program can be implemented now with almost immediate results and added benefits of decreasing depression, disruptive behaviors, and anxiety. 

Modern medicine has been wonderful at extending our lifespan.  Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by debilitating diseases and poor quality of life.  As the holiday season is upon us, why don’t we get involved and do some good.  If you get a new iPod, why not donate your old one to Music and Memory ?  Better yet, start a donation center in your city and bring Music and Memory to people in your community.  Let’s see if we can make a difference worldwide.

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About Erin Hascup

Erin graduated with her B.S. in Biochemistry from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2001 and went on to conduct research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Erin returned to school and obtained a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Kentucky in 2007. She completed postdocs at the Karolinska Institute and McGill University. Erin currently works at Southern Illinois School of Medicine and is co-founder of RateMyPI.com. Follow Erin on Twitter @RuthiePhD.
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4 Responses to 100% Efficacy for Improving Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients?

  1. manjeet sharma PhD says:

    I like to share this with you. My eighty year old spinster aunt has been suffering from dementia for a while now. It does not run in the family so her state is puzzling me. Since the death of her brother and sister to whom she was terribly attached she has gradually developed this state. Nowadays whenever we meet her, she forgets our names. But once she warms up she manages to recollect some incidents from the past. Most importantly, she recites hymns and nursery rhymes from her convent school, old hindi songs of her time. She does not make any mistakes. This behaviour is repetitive because each times she reconnects to one of us, this is how she portrays her joy. Then she exhorts us not to leave her. Once we are gone she forgets. Evidently, musical memories are retained in dementia state.

  2. Marc Dumesnil says:

    Good day,

    Do you know if studies have been initiated or completed to demonstrate the effects / impacts or absence or measurable impact of this Musicotherapy?
    Marc D.

    • Erin Hascup says:

      Hello Marc,

      The Music and Memory website has the titles and authors of several papers on the subject. However, it looks like they do not have anything more recent than 2005. Here are a couple more resecnt ones that I have found…
      1) The impact of stimuli on affect in persons with dementia.
      Cohen-Mansfield J, Marx MS, Thein K, Dakheel-Ali M.
      J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;72(4):480-6.
      PMID: 21527124
      2) Effect of music therapy on anxiety and depression in patients with Alzheimer’s type dementia: randomised, controlled study.
      Guétin S, Portet F, Picot MC, Pommié C, Messaoudi M, Djabelkir L, Olsen AL, Cano MM, Lecourt E, Touchon J.
      Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2009;28(1):36-46. Epub 2009 Jul 23.
      PMID: 19628939
      3) The temporal limits of cognitive change from music therapy in elderly persons with dementia or dementia-like cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial.
      Bruer RA, Spitznagel E, Cloninger CR.
      J Music Ther. 2007 Winter;44(4):308-28.
      PMID: 17997623

      Hope that helps,
      Erin

  3. Gary Rutherford says:

    I like the information and will start to put together my music list.

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