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Bringing Back Memories With A Song

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One night Jim Barton couldn’t sleep. Barton, like many people with Alzheimer’s disease, was feeling agitated and was pacing around the house.

“I remembered the music,” Becky Barton, his wife, says, “and I said ‘go get your music’.”

He started listening to music on an iPod provided by the Music and Memory program at Jewish Family Services.

Jim Barton fell asleep with his headphones on.

“It did good for him but it did better for me because it gave me what I needed because I didn’t know what to do,” Becky Barton says.

While the hunt for a pill to treat the disease continues, in recent years, music — a way to treat symptoms without chemistry — has been getting attention and research dollars.

Music and Memory provides people with Alzheimer’s with iPods filled with, not just any music, but music that’s meaningful to the patient, usually tunes from their formative years.

Barton’s playlist includes hits from the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Elton John, and other popular artists from the 60’s and 70’s.

Listening to those melodies can help relieve anxiety and depression, reduce agitation and the need for medication, and help patients access memories that, otherwise, might be locked away.”

A helpful thing for caregivers,” says radiologist Dr. Jeff Anderson. “It tends to cause fewer behavioral problems for people who have this intervention.”

Using an MRI scanner, Anderson and other researchers, peered inside the brains of Alzheimer’s patients while they listened to meaningful music.

A portion of the brain, the supplementary motor area, which isn’t affected by the Alzheimer’s until later in the progression of the disease, lit up.

“It’s like a back door,” Anderson says. “It’s a window into the brain of patients with dementia that can evoke attention and marshal resources from across the brain that they might not otherwise have access to.”

Jim Barton, working on a jigsaw puzzle and listening to his playlist, sings along with the Beatles. “She’s got a ticket to ride…” Part of him has drifted back to high school.

“It brings back memories that he can remember,” Becky Barton says. “His short term memory is totally gone, totally gone but that music brings back times in his life that he enjoyed. It brings back experiences that he enjoyed.”

“It puts me back in high school and, you know, I don’t know how to explain it, other than it just takes away the anxiety of and the realization that you’re going to die from this. And you know that that’s not an easy thing to accept,” Jim Barton says.

The Utah Music and Memory program is looking for donations of iPods and iPod chargers.  You can drop off donations at Jewish Family Services,1111 East Brickyard Road, Suite 218, Salt Lake City, UT  84106 and the I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, 2 N Medical Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84113.

For more information, contact Rosemary Quatrale at rosemary@jfsutah.org or 801-746-4334.

 

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