Perry Lutheran Home Launches “Music & Memory” Program for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Residents

Perry Lutheran Home (PLH) announces the launch of a new “Music & Memory” program which brings iPods filled with personalized music selections to residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to enhance their memories and enrich their lives. Grounded in research about how brains respond to music, the pilot program will engage fourteen Perry Lutheran Home residents who will have the opportunity to benefit from the therapeutic potential of music to tap deep memories and reconnect with the world. Perry Lutheran Home is one of only nineteen “Music & Memory” certified providers in the entire state of Iowa.

“This program is not about listening to a favorite song. Personalized music can be life-changing for dementia and elderly residents. Extensive neuroscience research has proven music’s powerful ability to support memory retrieval, reduce agitation and anxiety, and engage and enrich lives,” states Music & Memory Program Director, Alyssa Poland.

The first Perry Lutheran Home residents to participate in the program are dementia residents of St. James and St. John’s award-winning memory care units. Staff members are working with families to put together in-depth social histories detailing resident’s past professions, activities, hobbies, childhood years, likes, dislikes, favorite songs, and preferred genres of music. Using all this information, a unique playlist will be created and downloaded onto a personal iPod for each resident. Fine-tuning will take place to ensure and document positive response and desired therapeutic results. Music sessions will then be arranged according to resident needs to decrease agitation and anxiety, and to elicit feelings of happiness and well-being.

“I think it’s amazing. Whenever you see the residents listening to the music, you see them happy. They do remember those songs, and it does make them happy. When my dad listens to his music, I’m sure it makes him want to go dancing. He and my mom used to go dancing all of the time. Everybody would just sit and be amazed while watching those two dance,” describes Larry Heimbaugh, son of a resident currently engaged in the “Music & Memory” pilot program.

“We like to do things differently at Perry Lutheran Home by providing the latest innovations to enhance and enrich the lives of our residents. The ‘Music & Memory’ program allows us to help each resident reach his or her highest level of self-identity and capability,” said Rev. Max Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of Perry Lutheran Home.

Perry Lutheran Home hopes to expand the program and standardize the practice among the entire resident population. With program expansion comes the need for more resources such as iPod shuffles, specialized headphones, digital music, and the many important hours of matching music to specific resident needs and responses. Local Perry, Iowa high school students have expressed great excitement and desire to become a part of this program by serving as “Music Detectives” matching music to residents and also to help in fundraising efforts for the program. These students had the opportunity to watch the documentary “Alive Inside” which sparked their interest in becoming an active part in the Perry Lutheran Home “Music & Memory” program.

A one-time only, public showing of the inspiring film “Alive Inside” is set to take place in August 2017. The film, produced by Michael Rossado Bennett, powerfully documents the ability of this musical intervention program to improve the lives of those living with dementia. More details about this showing will be released at a later date.