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Music and Memory

Music and Memory Grant Supports Partnership to Support Those Living with Dementia in Their Homes.

On July 12th, 2016, Wisconsin’s Interim Secretary of the Department of Health Services, Tom Engels, joined representatives from Mayo Hometown Health, the Boys & Girls Club of Barron County, and the Aging & Disability Resource Center to announce the implementation of a $25,000 grant from the Mayo Clinic Health System to offer the Music & Memory Program in Barron County to people with dementia living in their homes.  The Secretary shared his own journey in caring for a loved one with dementia and expressed his commitment to carrying on the legacy of his predecessor, Kitty Rhoades.  It was quite an honor to have the Secretary here and to have him help us introduce the Memory & Music Program we are starting in Barron County.

The Music & Memory program will connect youth from the Boys and Girls Club with people who have dementia to provide personal music that speaks to them.  Music is profoundly linked with personal memories and, even for people living with advanced dementia; music can tap deep emotional recall. Think about a time when listening to a song that you have been transported back in time –back to your mom singing as she worked around the house, going on a family vacation, or your first dance.

Research has shown that parts of the brain activated when listening to music are some of the last areas affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  In fact, the evidence behind the Music & Memory program reveals benefits for both the person with dementia and their families.  These include increased awareness, engagement, and connection, along with less stress.  Youth from the Boys & Girls Club will receive training in brain health, Alzheimer’s and dementia, music and memory, and receive an interactive simulation of what it may be like to live with dementia.  Then they will be paired with people living in their homes with dementia to help discover and bring back the soundtrack of that person’s life, meeting at their home twice a month to update the music.  This is a unique opportunity to bring generations together, utilizing the tech savvy skills of our youth and introducing them to the wisdom and life experience of our older adults living with dementia.  Through the grant, the ADRC is able to provide an iPod shuffle, headphones, and purchased music to participants.  If you are interested in participating in the Music & Memory program, please contact coordinator, Jan Piltz, 715-537-6225.

Secretary Engels also visited Barron County to learn about the overwhelmingly positive response to the ADRC’s local dementia friendly community initiatives. After the announcement, the Secretary met with Barron County department heads to learn more about the ADRC initiative’s to train ALL county staff on what it means to be Dementia Friendly. Staff reported changes they made in their environment and day-to-day protocols to become more dementia friendly.  In general the increased awareness has generated better customer service and discussion about stigmatized diseases that are often not talked about.  In addition, many county employees concerned about or helping their own family members who have dementia have sought information and resources to help them plan ahead.  Secretary Engels seemed pretty impressed by how county employees have embraced the initiative and in some cases, changed the way in which they do business to make life better for our Barron County residents.  

The dementia friendly training is a ½ hour presentation that is available to all businesses and organizations provided on site.  If interested, please contact the Aging & Disability Resource Center for more information, 715-537-6225.

Music and memory Press Conference
Participants in the Music & Memory press conference included, pictured left to right:
Back row: Tom Engels, Interim Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Health Services; Trisha Bailkey, Dementia Care Specialist and Janet Plitz, Music and Memory Project Coordinator, Aging and Disability Resource Center of Barron Rusk, and Washburn Counties;  Deanna Aubart, Executive Director and Lyndsey Kurtz, Site Manager, Barron Riverview Middle School Extension, Boys & Girls Club of Barron County; Sara Carstens, Director of Community Engagement and Wellness, Community Giving Committee, Mayo Clinic Health System; 
Front Row: Jaqui Erb and Audra Rick, members of the Boys & Girls Club of Barron County in Barron.