Music helps us remember life’s refrain

Music therapy: B sharp program helps with memory

I love music. Songs are companions on life’s journey lifting me up with lively rhythms or helping me relax with soft harmonies.

Specific connections exist between a song and its place in my life. I hear the song, and it takes me back.

I hear “This Land Is Your Land,” and I’m back to music class in fourth grade. We learned all the patriotic songs for President’s Day in elementary school.

Those first few bars of “Another One Bites the Dust” make me see stadium lights shining over a black and gold press box. I remember chilly air and the excitement of seeing junior high friends at a Friday night football game.

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” brings me to tears. Our high school choir director eloquently interpreted the song for us during class, describing what it might have been like for soldiers in the Civil War.

Music Therapy

Because of my connection with music, I loved learning about the B Sharp program in Northern Colorado. B Sharp provides people diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers the chance to attend symphony performances. This partnership between Banner Health and a number of local agencies and businesses involves a research study to measure the impact music has on program participants and their caregivers. Some of the factors examined are:

  • Health outcomes for people with dementia with a focus on memory, mood and cognitive functioning
  • Changes in social connections and the quality of social interactions
  • Feelings of support and connecting with community from the caregiver

Researchers meet with the participants before and after the performance to gather data through an interview. Caregivers have enjoyed the increased interaction with other couples and made new friends while out with their loved ones in a safe setting. Those who have dementia have been engaged and said they enjoyed the music.

There have been scientific studies outlining and viral videos demonstrating the impact music can have on a person with Alzheimer’s. Angel Hoffman, one of the organizers of the B Sharp program and director of a Banner Health adult day program, said while music won’t cure the disease, it can vastly improve the quality of life for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia by helping them to become more alert.

Hoffman offered feedback from participants who attended a recent concert. One woman said her husband hadn’t sang in 60 years. Now, she sits next to him in church, and he’s singing all the songs. Another participant said her partner now can be heard singing in the shower.

“It’s definitely the music,” Hoffman said. “And it’s the big picture. It gives people the chance to get out and connect with others. They make connections.”

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