Personal playlists bring back memories for Alzheimer’s patients
In early September of 2014, John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West, posted a message on his blog to his fans. At the age of 51, he announced that he has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, joining other musicians in publically acknowledging their diagnosis, including AC/DC’s Malcolm Young and country legend Glen Campbell. In his post, John wrote, “I don’t want to spend any more energy trying to hide my symptoms. I don’t want to feel embarrassed. I want to accept what has happened and live.”
At the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, John Mann recently performed in support of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alan Cross, of The Edge and History of New Music, hosted the memorable night of live music with other artists including Molly Johnson, Royal Wood, Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson from Skydiggers, Tom Wilson, Kevin Kane and others. The concert also raised awareness of the Music for Memory Project at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto.
For people with dementia, it can sometimes be a challenge to communicate and find ways to discover pleasure in the world. The Music for Memory Project was created in response to overwhelming evidence showing the beneficial effects of music and stimulation to improve quality of life for people living with dementia. The project provides individualized playlists on iPod shuffles at no cost to families.
“Personalized music can help a person living with dementia feel happy and alive,” said Sabrina McCurbin, project coordinator. “It acts as a conduit of memory, improves cognition, decreases anxiety and agitation and improves communication and mood.”
Participating families have said that the project has made the lives of people with dementia richer and happier, providing brief snippets of lucidity and hints of familiarity and recognition.
“I am so very grateful for the Society undertaking this project,” said one husband of a women living with dementia. “I know to a certainty that music is this magical refuge where my wife and I find solace: a place where she seems to be carefree.”
The Alzheimer Society of Toronto offers information and education to people with dementia, their families and their caregivers. Their mission is to increase public awareness of dementia, to promote research, and to advocate for services that respect the dignity of the individual.
If you have questions about the Music for Memory Project or other programs, visit www.alz.to or contact the Alzheimer Society of Toronto
Caption:Frontman John Mann (top) poses with members of the band Spirit of the West in a file photo last year. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Suzanne Strojwons