Local non-profit uses music to jog memories for dementia patients

DEWITT, Iowa  --  Millions of american suffer from Dementia or Alzheimer. In recent studies, sound is becoming a big part in helping patients slow the progression of the illness.

Davenport non-profit, River Music Experience, travels to nursing homes around the Quad Cities area to play music for the residents. On Wednesday, April 17th, they played at West Wing Place in DeWitt.

"Folks with dementia, that might be really progressed, they remember the words to songs," West Wing Place activities coordinator Megan Gogulich said. "They remember where they were when they first heard the song."

"Music is an extremely powerful tool for patients with Alzheimer or dementia," Bret Dale with River Music Experience said. "It sparks something inside of all of us, and you see people, especially with dementia, come alive."

RME plays classic artist like Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash, trying to help patients remember their youth.

"It can get really emotional sometimes," Dale said. "Maybe a patient is just constantly quiet and never talks. Next thing you know, they are smiling and telling a story."

West Wing Place brings in musical guests two to three times a week, because of the benefits they see with their patients.

"Aside from bingo, I would say music draws our biggest crowd," Gogulich said. "Folks get brought back to their Friday night dance halls and where they met their husbands."

West Wing Place resident Dean Marlowe says he likes it when bands play.

"They play some good music," Marlowe said. "It brings back old memories. You sing along, you just have a good time with all your friends here."

The residents sing along to the songs and the ones that can dance.

"I haven't danced in a long time," resident Gladys Maassen said. "I'm afraid of falling. But, I sure do wiggle."

According to Alzheimers.net, music helps remind dementia patients of emotions and their past. The study says pairing music with everyday activities can improve cognitive ability over time.

River Music Experience plays at a local nursing home once a month.

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