Grant boosts Music and Memory Program

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Immanuel Lutheran Communities has received a $6,000 grant from the William and Blanche Hetzel Foundation to launch a therapeutic Music and Memory Program for its residents.

Immanuel Lutheran officials said the funding will allow seniors to use music to help them tap into forgotten memories and improve their quality of life.

Jason Cronk, the Immanuel Lutheran Communities chief executive officer, said the program will provide residents with personalized playlists on iPod or iPod shuffles to help them feel more connected to their memories, their lives and each other.

“We are particularly excited at the opportunity the grant will provide us in pursuing The Music & Memory Certification Program,” Cronk said. “It will allow for our compassionate and professional team of caregivers to be trained in the management and provision of this life-altering service.”

As a greater number of Americans reach an age that is more susceptible to slow diseases such as Alzheimer’s, assisted living and in-home care facilities have an increasing challenge to maintain their quality of life.

According to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, as a patient’s memories slip away, songs from their young adult years, ages 18 to 25, can tap into their past.

More than 5 million Americans live with some form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is predicted to increase to 16 million by 2050.

In Montana, 18,000 adults faced dementia in 2014. The association predicted that number would grow to 27,000 by 2025.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, people’s language centers are stored in the left side of the brain. If that area is damaged, it can be hard for someone to understand the meaning of sentences or remember daily functions, such as using a spoon or how to crawl into bed.

Unlike words, music is processed throughout the brain.

Various elements of a song — such as beat, lyrics or harmony — can activate areas throughout a patient’s mind, which can lead to improvements of a patient’s cognitive and physical health.

Music is also processed within the brain’s reward center by releasing a chemical called dopamine, which is associated with pleasure.

Cronk said staff members will learn participants’ favorite songs and styles of music they listened to throughout their childhood and young adult years, and load the music onto iPods for residents.

Cronk said after initial costs such as purchasing the iPods and the time spent to personalize them, the program’s low ongoing costs will make it affordable on an annual basis.

“We will have the opportunity to support the ongoing practice of this program for years to come,” he said.

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