A ground breaking program that explores the links between music and memory was launched in 21 acute health care sites across New South Wales earlier this month. Practised widely in the United States and Canada, the initiative helps people experiencing dementia, depression, isolation and/or pain through the development of personalised playlists.
Titled ‘Music and Memory’ and developed in the US, this personalised playlist program is designed to improve quality of life for people with dementia, and more generally for people who are in pain, depressed or isolated.
In Australia, the program is being delivered by the Arts Health Institute, in conjunction with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation. The two organisations won a start-up grant in November 2015, which funded a pilot at two sites, and additional government funding has allowed another 19 sites to join. 10 are in metropolitan areas, while 11 are regional.
“Music and Memory helps create connections with people,” said Dr Maggie Haertsch, CEO of the Arts Health Institute. “It is a powerful way for family and friends to share music together, to remember stories and experiences. It also has an important benefit for people with complex health needs, living with pain and mental illness.”
Through participation, patients are likely to become happier and more social, and to develop deeper relationships with staff, family members and other participants. There is also mounting evidence that the programme can lead to decreased reliance on anti-psychotic medication.
New South Wales Minister for Health Jillian Skinner, who spoke at the official launch at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 5 July, said, “I was blown away after watching the presentation for the Music and Memory program. I’ve seen videos of patients with dementia who were totally withdrawn, become energised, getting up and dancing and singing. These results are fantastic.”
The launch coincided with the Arts Health Institute’s fifth anniversary. Dr Haertsch said, “It’s the best birthday present ever. I’d like to see Music and Memory available to every person in aged care and in hospitals in Australia … and this certainly paves the way for that.”