Dr. Nicole Ross and her husband, Mark, were inspired to bring a Music and Memory program to Covington after seeing a new movie set to premiere in Atlanta August 22 called “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” created by social worker and Music and Memory’s founder, Dan Cohen.
“Alive Inside” won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s just an amazing movie,” Dr. Ross said. “There’s a trailer called Henry. It really pulled me into the concept.
“I had worked with dementia patients, and it is very hard to watch. If you’re in that environment all the time, you feel like you need to do something to make it better.”
Why should the music ever stop?
One local, married couple thinks it shouldn’t have to and that music can provide a remedy some prescription medications cannot. That’s why Mark Ross and Dr. Nicole Ross, who run the Right at Home of Covington in-home care and assistance provider, launched the Music and Memory program.
The Rosses partnered with Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA) to bring the nationally established nonprofit to Merryvale Assisted Living for a pilot trial with five patients, demonstrating the positive effects of music on the elderly with dementia.
Covington’s Music and Memory program started in June to provide iPods to residents with personalized music that they or their family members choose.
Dr. Ross said she used the unhappiness in those with dementia at Merryvale. Some would pace the floor, agitated and unable to rest. Some would sit in bed all day with their heads and chins against their chest. Some would be disruptive to the staff and other patients.
“I found that we were prescribing more medications to keep them calm and keep them from being so agitated and confused,” Dr. Ross said. “They appeared very sedated and lacked energy (from the medicine). They didn’t appear very happy to me despite my efforts.”
Many would be prone to falling more often because of the high dosages of their anti-psychotics, she said.
Then they were prescribed headphones and an iPod.
“It seems to have a major effect of calming them, improving their environment that they live in. It allows them to take the stress off their caregivers. It requires less medication when we give them personalized music,” Dr. Ross said.
They calmed down to focus on the music that brought memories of their childhood. They lifted their heads and looked around at their surroundings. They came back to life.
“We saw an immediate recognition that they enjoyed what they were hearing,” said Gena McLendon, executive director at Merryvale.
McLendon said she is thrilled Merryvale was chosen as the pilot assisted living facility for Dr. Ross’s program.
“Music is such a powerful influence that we were just delighted our residents are going to have the benefits of this,” McLendon said. “Ultimately, the residents are the ones who are going to benefit.”
While Right at Home staff worked with residents and Merryvale staff over the summer to launch the Music and Memory program, NCCA students will take over work with residents, Dr. Ross said. Healthcare and audiovisual students will work to bridge the gap between seniors and young adults who are often unaware of the effects of dementia, she said. They will visit the residents and help monitor their progress as well as inputting the songs onto iPods.
“The goal is to have the students help the seniors and the seniors to help the students,” Dr. Ross said. “To have the community working together.”
Some favorites have been Broadway, folk music, Southern gospel and Motown.
“I don’t think there’s any other homecare company that’s doing what we’re doing,” Mark Ross said. “Medications can work, but music just talks to people.”