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New England

NEGAPNA Supports the Music & Memory Program at Hebrew Healthcare

by Elizabeth Esstman

In March 2016, the New England GAPNA Chapter (NEGAPNA) donated $500 to Hebrew Healthcare’s Music & Memory Program to expand its benefits to additional residents.

In November 2015, Hebrew Healthcare (HHC), a 227-bed skilled nursing facility in West Hartford, CT, became the first long-term care facility in the greater Hartford area to incorporate this program.

Music & Memory is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of older adults with personalized music. Personalized playlists are created by trained staff and provided to older adults using iPods or related devices. Research has demonstrated the many benefits of music on the brain, including benefits for individuals with impaired cognition and dementia. The personalization of music allows for meaningful connections and memories that can contribute to increased alertness, diminished pain, medication reduction, and improved quality of life. As a result, the program is an invaluable tool for the gerontological nurse practitioner.

Music & Memory gained tremendous interest after the film, Alive Inside, debuted in 2014. NEGAPNA showed Alive Inside to attendees of its 10 year anniversary celebration in January 2016. After viewing this documentary, members had a strong desire to contribute to and further promote this program locally. The NEGAPNA contribution to HHC’s Music & Memory Program has positively impacted the lives of older adults with cognitive impairment.

Several patients at HHC had very dramatic responses to the program. For example, Mrs. A., an 82-year-old resident with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, is nonverbal and requires total care. Her devoted spouse visits her daily and sits with her for hours. HHC staff trained in the Music & Memory Program placed headphones over Mrs. A.’s ears to see what music she might respond to. Staff, along with her spouse, studied her expression and body language for evidence of a connection as music played. Initially, Mrs. A. remained stoic and apparently unmoved by classical or big band music. But when her iPod was activated to play traditional holiday songs, Mrs. A.’s shoulders relaxed, her eyes brightened, she even offered several monosyllabic words. Most touching of all, she took her husband’s hand in hers.

Mr. P. is a 92-year-old WWII veteran with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He is frequently resistive to care and often refuses nourishment and medications, but he responds to jazz. Since he does not always allow headphones to be placed when he is agitated, he has also been issued a set of portable speakers so that music can be played in his room, or even in the dining room, to help calm him. When Prima’s “Pennies From Heaven” fills a room, he often accepts his medication. He also assists in feeding himself instead of being fed, which he had not done for over 1 year.

Mrs. A. and Mr. P. are just two of the older adults at HHC that Music & Memory has affected. It is a tool staff uses to enhance care. One certified nurse assistant turns on Mrs. S.’s playlist 30 minutes before her family comes for their weekly visit because this allows her to sit up and interact and to enjoy the visit; a nurse on the dementia care unit now brings Mr. N. his headphones at noon instead of oxycodone 5 mg prn; and Mrs. H. no longer needs trazodone as playing Strauss’ “Metamorphosen for Strings” has been more effective in settling her agitation than the pharmacologic interventions ever were.

The success of this seemingly simple intervention has been astonishing both globally and locally at HHC. The personalized playlists are so effective because they incorporate music that matters to the residents. The HHC staff are skilled in compiling individual playlists and in identifying situations to use the music to maximize its effects. NEGAPNA is thrilled to contribute to a successful local Music & Memory program and to further enhance the lives of older adults. We all have a soundtrack to our lives; how miraculous it can be accessed and meaningful throughout.

Elizabeth Esstman, MSN, GNP-BC, AGPCNP-BC, APRN

Secretary NEGAPNA
bethesstman@hotmail.com