Last month, I attended the Bi-Annual MHTP Conference near Los Gatos, CA. This conference included several great presentations on the benefits of Live Therapeutic Music (LTM).
One of the presentors, Dr. Claire Garabedian, a Research Assoc. at the Association of Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, gave a presentation on her own research showing how LTM has actually been shown to reverse some side effects of dementia. It was exciting to see clinical research supporting what I have come to realize through my own work with elderly patients since 2010.
Upon returning to work at a local hospital, a charge nurse asked if I had time to work with one of her patients, Anna, in the hospital’s NICHE Unit (which stands for Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders). She told me that the patient suffered from dementia and could only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions and that she knew her name. Outside of those responses, the patient was mostly unresponsive and unable to effectively communicate.
Upon meeting the patient and obtaining permission to play for her, I began playing arrangements of classic ballads from the ’40s & ’50s. Almost immediately, she began to sing along…. and she new every word and sang in time and on pitch. The patient’s care giver sitting nearby had a stunned look on her face and shook her head in disbelief. She later told me that she had been sitting with this patient for nearly four months and had yet to see her put together a single sentence. Now, after hearing her patient sing, she was amazed to find her conversing with me, her and her nurse as though she was totally oriented and coherent.
It seems that somehow, the brain allows music to travel around and beyond areas of the brain that have been damaged by disease or trauma and reconnect those synapsis that bring back experiences and memories dating back several decades.
For more information on MHTP (Music for Healing and Transitition Program), go to www.mhtp.org. For information on how you can help MHTP and Strings of Mercy provide LTM to patients in the Atlanta area, go to www.stringsofmercy.org/donate.