Collin County

Music Triggers Memories for Dementia Patients at Collin County Senior Center

A senior care center in Collin County is using iPods and MP3 players to trigger memories in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

At Settler’s Ridge Care Center in Celina, memories and melodies go hand-in-hand.

Currently, 14 of the residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia have iPods with custom playlists created for them. The center is hoping people will donate their old iPods instead of tossing them so that each resident can be equipped with a personal playlist.

“We’ve had residents who have screamed and yelled and pain medicine, changing them or repositioning them, none of that seemed to work,” said wellness director Robbie Day. “Then you take something as simple as a little iPod and put some headphones on their head – it’s amazing, really amazing.”

Day said the music you hear from ages 12 to 25 is what you remember the rest of your life. Studies have shown that music is stored in a part of the brain that is last affected by Alzheimer’s. The more Day said she sees music therapy in action, the more certain she is that it truly works.

For Kellie Long, whose mother Bonnie was diagnosed with dementia with Alzheimer’s symptoms 15 years ago, it’s clear song lyrics soothe the soul.

“When the calmness comes over her, I see glimpses of her personality and that’s worth it all, that’s worth it all,” Long said. “When you turn the music on for her, the anxiety goes away.”

Terri and Jerry Rothrock have been married 38 years. They couple met on the dance floor at a disco.

“We met through music and it’s always been an important part of our life. We danced together, won dance contests together,” Terri said.

Jerry, 60, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, but Terri said symptoms started showing when he was just 48 years old.

The disease has left the once-charismatic salesman unable to speak. But glimpses of his personality shine through when headphones are slipped over his hears – and his favorite classic rock starts to play.

"Every now and then, you can see him snapping and dancing along with you. He’s an all-around happy guy and that’s what I remember him being as a little girl," said his granddaughter Emerson Waskom. 

“This therapy is huge,” Terri added. Jerry’s favorites are Eric Clapton, Los Lonely Boys and Santana.

If you have an old iPod, headphones, or iTunes gift card you would like to donate, contact Settler’s Ridge

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