When Delmar Caskey slips on the earphones to his iPod Shuffle, the music jogs his memory back to his country and western two-stepping days. Caskey, a resident of The Stayton, a retirement community, was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. Now he is experiencing lost memories through MUSIC & MEMORY, a personalized music therapy program for individuals living with memory loss. With more than 5 million people across the country experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, MUSIC & MEMORY is gaining traction and earning recognition as a powerful tool to combat memory loss. Delmar Caskey’s nephew, Craig Caskey, has noticed a remarkable improvement in his uncle’s ability to recall seemingly lost memories.
“Uncle Delmar used to go country dancing every weekend when he lived in East Texas,” said Caskey. “He loves just about any song ever performed by Bob Willis, and through the program we have created a music playlist with songs that trigger those memories again. A slight smile washes over his face, and that’s when we know the music is working – we can see he’s able to recognize pieces of his past.”
Valynda King, the activities director for memory support at The Stayton, recently became certified in MUSIC & MEMORY and has seen the program’s positive impact on residents. The unique program is designed to improve mood, social engagement and family relationships. According to King, the program is often a spontaneous activity that really depends upon an individual’s needs at the moment. Two days a week, King sits with Delmar as he listens and taps along to the beat of his favorite music. King asks questions about Delmar’s life during those sessions, and is always touched when he shares a piece of his past with her.
“Delmar’s facial expression immediately softens when he hears the music, and I can see him traveling back in time,” explained King. “He has a reminiscing smile and begins to giggle. It’s touching and it grips you to the core to witness a resident fall back into a familiar place. There’s nothing better than watching a resident experience a lost moment.”
MUSIC & MEMORY is an extension of the Masterpiece Living® philosophy, which serves as the retirement community’s foundation. The philosophy embraces a wellness-minded attitude that encourages learning in an individual’s key development areas – physical, mental, social and spiritual. For King, the program has served as a breakthrough to connect to residents living with memory loss, and each resident involved in MUSIC & MEMORY uses the program in different ways. For example, one resident finds the music soothing during meal times, helping with his nutrition.
“When residents feel overwhelmed, music puts them back in that place where there are good times and smiles,” said King. “It’s an excellent tool to reach residents. Even if the residents are not verbally communicating, it enables us to reach them on a whole new level.”
Caskey visits Delmar on a daily basis, and continues to be impressed with the positive impact the sound of music has made on his favorite uncle. Delmar is one of six residents currently involved in the program, and King’s goal is to reach as many residents possible through the powerful tool of music.