UW student's project brings music therapy to people dealing with Alzheimer's

  • Article by: DAN HOLTZ , Leader-Telegram
  • Updated: June 17, 2013 - 12:06 AM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Kris Metcalf helped Ellen Ball select Elvis Presley's version of "How Great Thou Art" and placed the headphones on Ball's ears.

The two women started singing along with Elvis.

Ball then sang by herself, with a big smile on her face, when "Amazing Grace" came up on her iPod.

Ball is one of five residents at Dove Healthcare-West, participating in a music therapy program for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, the Leader-Telegram reported.

Ball has her own iPod loaded with her favorite songs. Dove staff help her whenever she wants to listen to her iPod.

"It's decreased her anxiety," Metcalf, Dove's recreation director, said of Ball and the music therapy program. "She has a calm atmosphere about her."

Ball has difficulty verbally expressing herself, but she's made it obvious she enjoys the music. She might get nervous about getting dressed or taking her medications, but the music calms her down, Metcalf said.

"It's easier for our staff to help her," she added.

Ball loves hymns and songs from the musical "The Sound of Music."

Jill Seichter, a UW-Eau Claire social work major from Menomonie, introduced the iPod music therapy program at Dove Healthcare-West.

Seichter's project, titled "Music+Memories=Magic," earned her the $1,250 Ryan Prechel Community Service Fellowship from the university. Seichter gave donated iPods to Dove Healthcare-West and Care Partners, an assisted-living facility at 2306 Frank St.

She personalized the devices with individualized music for residents involved with the program.

Staff handle the iPods at Dove. At Care Partners, Seichter works one-on-one with the residents for her project.

Seichter started the project after a professor showed a video on music therapy during one of her classes. Last fall she selected Dove and Care Partners for the project.

Seichter's expectations from the project were simple.

"Giving them a better quality of life. Giving them a happy moment," she said. "Anything that can make them enjoy their life. It's just something to make them happy."

The spirits of two women she works with improve when the music starts, Seichter said.

"One lady, when you put the music on, her toes start wiggling," she said.

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