Music YoU HEAL Overview

Music YoU HEAL Overview

Music YoU HEAL is a key program at the Snohomish County Music Project.

Music YoU HEAL uses music as a tool to help improve behavioral and emotional health outcomes for elderly populations suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and other age related diseases. It also addresses mature adults and veterans with mood disorders. However, the focus here is on aging and memory.  The musical tools and techniques of which stem from 50 years of evidence based clinical practice and research is known as Music Therapy.   One reason Music YoU HEAL is aimed at seniors is because music is processed in all parts of the brain thus assisting cognition and emotional processing.

Another reason Music YoU HEAL is aimed at seniors is due to fewer behavioral health treatments and interventions being available to this vulnerable population. Losing the ability to vocalize renders talk therapy difficult, if not impossible, in some cases. Since music is processed throughout the brain, rather than just the speech center, Music YoU HEAL can break through barriers.

For these reasons, the Music Project focused on music therapy for seniors. With support from the Quail Park of Lynnwood Memory Care facility, the Music Project was able to complete a pilot study using Music YoU HEAL to treat residents.  Quality of life for these seniors was improved by decreasing anxieties, use of medication, and social isolation.

Challenges for Seniors

Common challenges emerged from the pilot study.  Many of these were anticipated from current research findings.

  • During the late stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, there is considerable neural degeneration in the areas of cognition, emotional processing and language.  Because music can access all parts of the brain, new networks of thinking, feeling and abilities to communicate and self-express can be created.  Hence, music provides a soothing musical massage to the brain and temporarily helps to relieve an individual’s symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • Music is processed in all the different parts of the brain; homeostasis. The brain needs to feel balanced and function in its most effective and efficient way. This can be a significant challenge with those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • For people living with Alzheimer’s, there are known behaviors that do surface but others do not such as, increased apathy, aggressive behaviors, high anxiety, tearfulness, and or perseverating on difficult feelings or situations – the brain tries to respond but is agitated by not working well. When music is introduced, the parts of the brain that are not yet affected by the disease can now function in an integrated way. Music increases “good feeling hormones” like serotonin and dopamine.
  • Music enhances a sense of well-being in Alzheimer’s patients. This continues even when they are at a bed-ridden phase, since the brain can still sense rhythms. Body movements and motions demonstrate that Alzheimer’s patients can still experience rhythms by tapping their hands or move their feet to the music. From a scientific point, we don’t know what patients remember due to their limited ability to communicate or remember, but we can still decipher from their body movements that the music and rhythms are being received as a positive experience.

Music YoU HEAL Intervenes

The pilot program served clients in distinct phases. Phase One involved the initial consultation and individual music therapy sessions. Interventions included developing personalized music playlists to help care-takers and family calm disoriented or agitated clients. This work prepared individuals for Phase Two, which involved group therapy sessions that utilized call-and-response singing and rhythm games that focused on clinical goals such as building memory, vocalizing, and fostering interpersonal relationships.

Outcomes included the following:

  • Increased brain power reconstruction
  • Memory recall
  • Mood and emotional stabilization
  • Decrease in agitation and aggressive behaviors
  • Self-expression in participants who couldn’t talk

The response was overwhelmingly positive. Local media outlets, KOMO-4 and KING-5 news, covered the pilot. Staff from Quail Park offered their own praise. Senior Services of Snohomish County featured the program in their periodical, Senior Focus.

If you or someone you love would benefit from Music as Medicine, please refer them online for a free consultation. Alternatively, you can support the Music Project by investing in programs like this, so that they can expand.

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