“The music really does something to wake him up and help him to be more engaged with what is going on around him,” says Barb Knutson, daughter of Mike Knutson, a 96-year old man suffering from dementia. Mike Knutson learnt playing the harmonica as a child and always sang with members of his family until he became very old and confined to the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in Union Grove, Milwaukee.
Knutson has been included in a nationwide music program that is aimed at helping dementia patients, and was given an iPod to play his favorite music playlist with the objective of monitoring his reactions and functional responses. The Music and Memory program is founded by Dan Cohen, and the study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The researchers gave out iPods to 1,500 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at nursing homes participating in the program in Wisconsin, and the mental states of the patients were monitored against 1,500 other Alzheimer’s and dementia patients that have not received iPods in other nursing homes.
Although Knutson is often sleepy, he smiles and taps his feet, and sometimes gently claps his hands when the headphones of his iPod blare big-bang music that has been personalized in a playlist for him. He also responds in the same way when family members sing with him – and this is largely due to the music.
The social interactions, sleep patterns, body movements, and body functions of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients resident in nursing homes participating in the Music and Memory program were monitored and documented, and the collected music data gave insights into the value of music in helping dementia patients recover.