Brain Awareness Week: Partnership highlights how music helps people living with dementia

By Selma Al-Samarrai

March 11, 2019 – It is well-documented that listening to music can offer tremendous benefits to people living with dementia. The quality of life improvements can include heightened engagement with surroundings, increased connection to memories, and better temperament.

A few years ago, Providence Healthcare collaborated with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto to provide iPods, preloaded with a personalized playlist, to dementia patients as part of the Music Project. Not only does the project help people living with dementia, it also provides a break for their caregivers.

Anita Delos Reyes Llamoso (in photo above on right, with her daughter Alice Celis), 89, started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease a few years before her diagnosis in 2013. Celis picked up an iPod for her mother at Providence last year and has since noticed a positive impact.

“My mother is a caring and loving person, it was very sad to see these personality changes in her. However, her love for music did not change. She is always happy and cheerful when listening to music and of course, surrounded by family and friends who love her,” explained Celis, who has been taking her mother to Providence’s Adult Day Program since 2014.

“The iPod project that enables her to listen to her favourite songs is a tremendous help not only in making her happy and engaged but also in providing me, her caregiver, some downtime to do housework. I’m so grateful for this.”

Navneet Marwaha (in photo below on left, with Erin Leneeuw), a clinical resource co-ordinator at the Adult Day Program, says the reported impacts of the iPods have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Music helps people with memory loss reminisce and caregivers have even said that when their loved one is anxious, they find comfort in listening to music that’s familiar to them,” explained Marwaha.

The Alzheimer Society of Toronto has a satellite office inside Providence, and Providence’s Scotiabank Learning Centre is where caregivers are directed to pick up their iPods.

“Our collaboration with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto made so much sense and was really a match made in heaven for caregivers,” said Erin Leneeuw, clinical resource co-ordinator for intake and family guidance at the Adult Day Program.

“What we find is, in addition to being able to pick up the iPod, many caregivers are walking into Providence’s Scotiabank Learning Centre for the first time, which allows us the opportunity to immediately support and engage them with new information on caring for a loved one with memory loss.”