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Health Team

Music helps loosen muscles, memories for dementia patients

Posted June 17

Music has the power to lift a person's mood and calm nerves. That is why many therapists are harnessing that power to help people and caregivers living with dementia.

At Glenaire Retirement Community in Cary, golden oldies often fill the air at the Glade Adult Day Center.

Most participants in the program are diagnosed with some form of dementia, a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Occupational therapist Teepa Snow uses the music to loosen muscles and shake loose memories.

Snow's business partner, Ronald Gregory, uses a patented technique to enhance the music and a scientific approach to assemble song catalogs.

"We basically use the research techniques that radio stations use today," Gregory said.

He chooses songs for target groups based on when their strongest music memories were formed- between 8 and 20 years old, according to Gregory.

"There are upbeat songs and then there are calming songs, and you can select the pattern that you are looking for given where you are in that moment," Snow said.

That moment - where musical memories have the power to curb anxiety that increases with dementia related conditions, such as Alzheimer's Disease.

"We really impact alpha waves, which are known as the relaxation waves," Gregory said.

As nerves are calmed, Snow said it is about opening a window so a person's memories can flow through. Exercises and word memory games are also part of the therapy.

"It's providing comfort for the care recipient, but also providing relief for the care giver," Gregory said. "We don't subscribe to this being a babysitter. We want music to bring that energy that music has, and have it become part of their life."

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