Music helps those with Alzheimers, dementia connect with loved ones

(WJLA) - To hear Anna sing or Natalia dance, means everything to therapeutic recreation director Elaine Kielman.

Kielman launched the Music and Memories Project at Asbury Methodist Village fore residents with Alzheimers and dementia.

Each person has an iPod programmed with specific music to listen to for 30 minutes a day.

Kielman explained that Alzheimers patients may not remember what happened minutes ago, but memories from their youth often remain vivid -- including music from that time.

"You are imprinted with music between [ages] 17 to 20," Kielman said,.

The goal is to engage the residents and help them feel happier and less anxious -- and therefore, hopefully, cut down on their medications.

Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Youngs volunteers to help for his Eagle Scout project. He led a team of Boy Scouts who interviewed family members about song selections, and downloaded all the music onto each patient's iPod.

"It makes me feel ecstatic and joyful seeing how my work has helped the lives of others," Nicholas said.

Bonita Neal said her mother, Audrey, has become more and more disconnected over time due to her Alzheimer's, but that music is helping to bridge the gap.

"It calms her down," Neal said. "And every so often you'll see her getting jiggy in her seat."

Neal said her mother's happiness brings her a sense of connection she'll forever cherish:

"It gives me quality time with Mom. It keeps me with her a little bit longer."