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“Alive Inside”: Giving People Living with Dementia the Gift of Music

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration. But for the 5.7 millionAmericans living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) – andtheir families – it can be a season of angst and isolation.

A groundbreaking program called Music & Memory™ has brought life-changing hope to people who suffer from ADRD,helping to trigger memories, build bridges, and improve quality of life. Launched in 2006 by Dan Cohen,the program took the spotlight with the 2014 documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory,” and was recently endorsed by legendarysinger-songwriter Carole King. With the therapeutic effects of personalizedmusic, many people living with ADRD become more aware, animated, and “aliveinside.”

Reawakening memories

“Research has found that music can penetrate parts of the brainless affected by ADRD,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer, and founding partner of Lifetime Wellness. Her company offers Music& Memory in several senior living communities and was one of the first organizations in Texas to receive a grant for the program. “Familiar songs – especially holiday carols – have healing power. They can help people with cognitive challenges to access deepmemories, feel less agitated, and reconnect. With holiday music everywhere around us, this time of year is a primetime to help those with ADRD tap into memories associated with these treasuredtunes.”


Learn how your loved one with ADRD can reawaken memories through music


Revisiting treatment options

About 70 percent of residents with ADRD livingin care facilities are reported to have behavioral and psychiatric symptoms, often treated with antipsychotic drugs. The Music & Memoryprogram offers a different pathway to treatment.   

A recent study from BrownUniversity found that people with dementia who were part of the Music & Memory program were more likely to stop the use of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs and less likely to exhibit problematic behaviors. A similar study is underway in California.

Rejuvenating lives

Susan McKinney, vice president of operations at Lifetime Wellness, describes how the program works. “Staff consult with each resident and the resident’s family tocreate a personalized playlist, delivered on iPods and other digital devices. We’ve seen so many residents who were uncommunicative put the earbuds on – and beginto smile and talk again, or even burst into song.”   

McKinney offers the story of a resident who participated in the Music & Memory program at a Lifetime Wellness partner community. “Dementia has impaired her ability to communicate,” McKinney says. “In collaboration with her family, we put together a playlist of classic hits from her favorite decade, the ‘70s. Her husband described the change in her this way: ‘When she listens to the songs she loves, my wife lights up. Any smile or reaction I see in her lets me know that she is still with me.’”

Retaining staff

Music & Memory supports not only residents and their families but also care professionals.  “Caregivers get back time lost to navigating challenges in resident behavior – along with a new approach in their effort to reduce reliance on antipsychotic medications,” Whitwell notes. “Also, as staff help prepare the playlists, they learn more about the residents they serve. Knowing more about each resident’s life story can help caregivers provide more personalized care.”

Texas Health and HumanServices through its Quality Monitoring Program has conducted a study on how Music & Memory can increase staff retention andsatisfaction. Industry observers believe the program can help deter “compassion fatigue” and high employee turnover rates that continue to challenge the seniorliving industry. 

Reaching out to the community

The holidays are a time of giving. A tax-deductible gift directly to the Music & Memory nonprofit helps the program expandto more people struggling with ADRD.

“It’s a simple way to reach people with dementia who so often seem beyond reach,” Whitwell says. “Your donation to the program will truly be the gift that keeps on giving. We also accept donations any time for those we serve in our communities.  Items such as individual music players (gently used or new), iTunes gift cards, and headphones help support the program locally.” 


Give the gift of music. Learn more.


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Caregiver Wellness: Combatting Compassion Fatigue

Throughout the nation’s senior living communities, professional caregivers strive to deliver quality, compassionate care. But they’re often at risk of burnout. Physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion can erode their effectiveness in caring not only for residents but also for themselves. Statistics tell the story of a weary workforce. Each year, an estimated 45 percent of senior care employees leave the industry. “Being a professional caregiver takes a special heart but can lead to ‘compassion fatigue,’” says Stephen Chee, director of employee wellness at Lifetime Wellness. His company provides person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities. Read More
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A Way of Life: Pursuing Senior Wellness

Baby Boomers – those 77 million babies born between 1946 and 1964 – have long grown up. And they aren’t going gently into their golden years. They’re demanding wellness as a way of life. To speak to the needs of this surging demographic, senior living communities are pursuing programs that promote health, happiness, and whole-person development.

“Today’s seniors are more educated, more proactive, and more vocal than ever before,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer, and founding partner at Lifetime Wellness. “They are clear in their expectations to live fully and age successfully.” Whitwell’s company provides person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities.

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Falls: Reducing the Risk in Senior Care

Falls can change lives – in the worst of ways. Each year, one in three seniors falls, and 20 percent sustain a serious injury, from head trauma to a broken hip. These injuries can reduce mobility and independence, and increase the risk of premature death. In fact, falls are the top cause of injuries, and death from injuries, among older Americans.

The good news is that falls are preventable. In the quest to reduce falls among seniors, leading senior living communities are implementing structured programs that take a long-term, unified approach to fall prevention. Read More

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Senior Loneliness: Fighting the Epidemic

Loneliness is not only a pressing social issue. It’s also a major health risk, especially for seniors. A groundbreaking study links social isolation with a higher risk of death in adults aged 52 and older.It’s been found to be as physically harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and contributes to cognitive decline, including the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

To fight the loneliness epidemic – experienced by more than 40 percent of seniors throughout the nation – innovators in senior care are taking new approaches. They’re helping residents to seek rewarding activities, make robust social connections, and find a renewed sense of purpose.

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Aromatherapy: Supporting Health and Wellness in Senior Care Communities

Senior care providers face enormous pressure to keep pace with the “Aging of America.” Today, the U.S. is home to more than 50 million seniors; by 2050, that number is projected to surge to 83 million. To meet the complex needs of this fast-growing demographic, more and more senior care communities are looking for care innovations.

An increasingly popular option is aromatherapy. Recognized by The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the U.S. National Institutes of Health as a “complementary health approach,” the practice uses essential oils from plants to address health challenges and support overall wellness.

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Dementia: Certifying Practitioners for Better Patient Care

Today, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). By 2050, the number is projected to nearly triple. In the wake of an ADRD epidemic, the need to ensure that caregivers are well trained in delivering highly proficient and abundantly sensitive direct care and support is critical.

In 2003, two innovators in dementia care, Sandra Stimson and Lynn Biot-Gordon, founded an organization devoted to promoting standards of excellence in ADRD education. Called the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP), this group offers a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) program to professionals and other caregivers who provide services to ADRD clients. Read More

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Senior Health Literacy: Raising the Score

Health literacy is our ability to understand health information and make the best health care decisions. A seminal study of these skills has issued a troubling report card: just 12 percent of all adults – and 3 percent of seniors – have proficient health literacy.

“Low health literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer and founding partner at Lifetime Wellness. Her company provides person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

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A New Approach to Dementia: Intervening Without Drugs

It’s been called “The Long Goodbye.” Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) cause memory decline, cognitive impairment, and eventual loss of daily functioning. Today, 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease – with numbers projected to more than double by 2050.

Of those living with ADRD, 90 percent struggle with behavioral and psychological symptoms, from agitation and aggression to psychosis. These symptoms can be devastating for the person with ADRD and challenging for those who provide care – family members and health care staff alike.

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New Horizons: Exercising With Limited Mobility

Nearly 40 percent of seniors have at least one disability, and most of that number have mobility challenges. Yet limited mobility doesn’t mean exercise is off limits. Many creative approaches are in motion to help mobility-challenged seniors stay fit.

Adapting to the changes

“Having a mobility issue – whether from a disability, injury, or chronic condition – changes many parts of a person’s life,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer and founding partner at Lifetime Wellness. Her company provides person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

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