In this episode, Teresa Keating, Registered Nurse and Certified Dementia Practitioner with The Arbor Company, is back to discuss how music therapy can be helpful for those with dementia and other cognitive impairments.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone. And welcome into Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. Thank you so much for watching us via video. And for those of you tuning in via podcast, thank you so much for finding us. Well, today we are talking about music, specifically music therapy and how it can help people with cognitive conditions such as dementia. The wonderful Teresa Keating, she is here with me and we are so glad to hear that music therapy is working for residents at your community Teresa, Barrington Terrace of Fort Myers in Florida. I can't wait to hear all about it. I know that our viewers can't wait to hear about it either. Teresa, first, though how are you doing today?

- I I'm doing great Melissa. How are you?

- Doing fantastic. Thank you. First, tell us a little bit about yourself and what your current role is with the Arbor Company.

- Yes, I have worked with the Arbor Company for seven and a half years now. I have worked in various different positions. I started off as the Executive Director of the Barrington Terrace in Naples, and then transferred to the Barrington Terrace in Fort Myers, which is where I am right now. I am a registered nurse and a certified dementia practitioner. And I currently work as a senior care counselor in the Barrington Terrace in Fort Myers.

- Perfect. Now we did have a webinar about this several months ago about music therapy and how it can reach somebody who is living with dementia in ways that perhaps we cannot. I know that this is a topic that is near and dear to you. Why is that?

- Well, music has an amazing way of eliciting emotions and memories that has a direct link to a person's past and increasing their connectivity between the caregivers and the families. So music has been shown that in the brain the music is stored in a completely different place for memory, and it is relatively untouched with a brain suffering from dementia. There is no medication that can compare to an immediate results of using personalized music that is meaningful to someone.

- Yeah, it is amazing. It truly is amazing. And the fact that somebody was able to even tap into this and understand and real realize, wow, there's a connection here. And I love that you did reach out to Dan Cohen, who is the founder of Music and Memory, which is a nonprofit that we're gonna talk about that can help people with cognitive and physical conditions by using music as you mentioned. Now they do offer several different kinds of certifications and you are of course a part of that training and are certified. Tell us a little bit about that program and what you were able to learn from it.

- Well, first of all, I saw a documentary that Dan Cohen had produced and it was called "Alive Inside." And I believe it's available on Netflix. I watched that and witnessed how music can bring people alive. You saw Dan Cohen in a nursing home, and he went to talk to different residents who you saw at the beginning just sat in a wheelchair and their head down and not really communicating. And then he found out what music they were liked. He found out from a gentleman called Henry's family, that he used to be a dancer, a singer and so music was obviously really important in his life. And so they downloaded music and you see a clip and it's on YouTube as well, where the music starts playing and you can see Henry starting to become alive. Starting to come back to his old self. You see him starting to sing to the music. You see him starting to become animated and the most striking thing was even after the music had finished, which he started singing to and could remember the words, he was able to continue a conversation afterwards. So that really struck me as the most amazing thing that you could do to bring someone out of being almost catatonic to being able to converse and express themselves. So with the certification, Dan met with us and did some training via Zoom on, it was two 90 minute sessions, but told us best practices like even how to download the music, what kind of music was important. What type of things to use for helping someone with some anxiety, what to do with some residents that were maybe sad and suffering from depression, to use it for so many different things those that had sight impairment. And so he gave us an idea about the best type of iPods, the different types of headsets that would work and really sort of best practices on how to do this and how to get the family involved.

- Yeah and if you think about music, right for everybody, anybody who has the ability to hear music, it takes us back in time. So if we hear a song from our childhood, it takes us back to that moment. If we hear a song that that was fun for the summer of last summer, it reminds us of that time. So we all have a connection to music even if we don't realize it. And it's just amazing that that somebody was able to connect the dots and find that this connection still exists. Even with somebody who has cognitive issues or something like dementia. So now, how were you able to integrate this program at your community and what was the response by your residents there?

- So the wonderful thing is when you talk to the families, when you talk to the staff, they immediately got excited. They knew that this was something that they could be involved into. So apart from the training at the very beginning with the staff and so that they understood, the families were a really big part of this. We picked so many residents and we had the families involved. We had the engagement staff and the caregivers, sit down with the families and find out a little more about the resident and what music would be important to them. We had them find out whether they played a musical instrument, so we could know if we wanted to put a piano piece in there, we would find out their favorite wedding song, things that were so meaningful. So once we had the music and we figured out, we then tried it. I have one particular instance with my first resident that I tried it with. And this resident was often quite tearful and we put the headset on and put the music on. And for a little while we saw her nodding to the music and then the song "My Way" came on and this lady sang the whole song. The whole words, knew every word and sang "My Way." And after it was finished, everyone around us was like we were tearful because it was like the most we'd seen her even express herself. And she looked directly in my eyes and she's said, "That's exactly how I feel." So we knew that this was something that is pretty special. And so after that we got the families more involved. We did some fundraising so that we could get some more iPods. And the nice thing was, is that we connected teenagers who are obviously a lot brighter than we're with downloading the music. And we connected teenagers to learn more about their grandparents and what was important to them as far as music. And it just increased the connection when it was Christmas or birthdays. And they said, "What could we do?" I would say, "Get an iPod and download music. That's the most special thing that you can do for your grandparents." It's been a wonderful experience with this program.

- That is just incredible and I love those examples. I got catch chills.

- I know we going get chills.

- That amazing. So, you know we have many communities that offer memory care services, right? How does this type of therapy differ from others that a resident may receive at a typical Memory Care Community?

- And so how it differs is most of Memory Care Communities will have music. And because it's obvious that music does reach a resident but there's something about having the music personalized just for them. That's one on one with the earphones, it engages them more, it's more meaningful for them. And so when you can connect with them that way, you're able to help if they're having a bad day. How to help change that mood, how to change some anxiety, how to really connect with them in a different way. And so I would say it's more individualized and it can be used for so many different reasons than just the group activities listening to music.

- Yeah, well, like I said, we had a very similar webinar where we had people who were able to ask questions about this kind of therapy but it's wonderful to see it actually being used on a daily basis at Arbor Communities. I mean we're not only talking about it, we're doing it. And we thank you so much for taking the time to get certified that you can do this for your residents. Now, finally Teresa, if somebody wanted to learn more about music therapy, what resources can you provide?

- Well, I would give them the inspiration that I received by looking at the documentary "Alive Inside" and I would contact Dan Cohen or the Music and Memory Certification. It is online and just read more about how to do it. It isn't difficult. And the rewards that you get for the experience of bringing this to your community or your loved one is so worth it. So I would say go online, look at the resources there. And I'm always available for a conversation or an email if there was something particular you would like me to answer.

- Yeah, that's great. And for those who are watching, if you have a telephone number that could be best to reach you, what would that be?

- That would be 239-334-2500.

- That's amazing Teresa. I thank you so much for really driving this topic home. There are a lot of people that don't even know this exists and we know that there are people right now who are dealing with maybe a spouse or a loved one who has dementia, maybe was recently diagnosed and they feel like it's them against the world. And we are here to try to offer as many different ways to help your loved one each and every day as possible. And this certainly is one way that they can do that. So thank you so much for taking your time to help us today.

- Well, welcome. It's my pleasure and I would encourage everybody to go involved with this.

- Yeah, thank you so much. Now if those of you watching or listening, you found this interesting, this video with Teresa today, please head on over to our website, There you can find all kinds of informative videos, all related to Senior Living, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We all thank you so much for being a part of Senior Living Life have a great day everybody.

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