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

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

The second woman, who is often sad, has eyes that "light up" when she hears the music, Seichter said.

Seichter also was motivated by her grandfather, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. In working with her grandfather, she's noticed a calmness when she provides him with music.

"He's never seen headphones like that," she said. "He laughs at the pictures I take of him with the headphones. He loves his show tunes and hymns."

Residents were selected for Metcalf's program based on who responded to the music and who might most benefit, Metcalf said. "They had to have a love of music."

Decreased anxiety appears to be the biggest benefit for the Dove residents involved in the program, Metcalf said.

Dove has residents who may have problems remembering the day of the week or where they are living. "But they can remember four verses of a song," she said.

"That part of the memory is still intact and we want to tap into that as much as possible."

One male resident at Dove, who is not verbal, is calmed by the music. His wife assists him with his iPod, Metcalf said.

"It's nice to have that kind of bonding," Seichter said, referring to the man.

A second male resident, who is also not verbal, "starts singing whenever we have a sing-along," Metcalf said. "It brings his wife to tears."

Dove staff hasn't compiled statistics yet, Metcalf said, but she's interested to see if Seichter's music therapy program will reduce medications for any residents, develop better sleep patterns and improve or increase their appetite.

"Down the line we could track that," she said. "At this point, we just want to improve the quality of life and decrease anxiety."

"We consider ourselves very lucky (Seichter) chose us," Metcalf said.

The money Seichter receives from the fellowship will go into her music therapy program. Seichter intends to buy more iPods with the funds.

Because UW-Eau Claire students have a community service requirement, Seichter hopes other students pursue the project after she graduates in spring 2014 and involve other nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

"To me, it's worth trying anything," Seichter said. "Any benefit from the music is a positive. Even if it's just for a few minutes, it's just great. It's so rare having that big smile."

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