MUSIC AND MEMORY How to Make Meaningful Connections in DEMENTIA CARE

How often do we realize the profound impact music can have, especially for those on a dementia journey? This episode brings to light the transformative role of music therapy in dementia care.

Our guest, Alexis Baker is a board-certified music therapist of 10 years and owner of Bridgetown Music Therapy, which she founded in 2017. She is passionate about using music to make a difference in the lives of older adults, especially those living with dementia.

MUSIC AND MEMORY: How to Make Meaningful Connections in DEMENTIA CARE

0:00:00 Introduction
0:01:38 Long-Term Support for Dementia Caregivers
0:04:26 Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families
0:06:25 Alexis' Journey into Music Therapy and Passion for Dementia Care
0:17:08 The Power of Music in Memory and Impact
0:19:07 Starting a Business in Music Therapy for Dementia Care
0:21:09 Adapting Music Therapy Services During COVID
0:30:27 Personal Experience with Alzheimer's and Inspiration
0:34:36 Join the Dementia Caregiving for Families Facebook Group

Understanding Music Therapy

Music therapy is a specialized field where trained professionals use music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. In dementia care, it's not just about playing songs. It involves a deep understanding of how music can be used therapeutically.

The Science Behind the Melody

Music therapy is grounded in science. This episode highlights research demonstrating how music can stimulate areas of the brain affected by dementia. It's fascinating to learn how the rhythm, melody, and harmony of music can evoke responses even in advanced stages of dementia.

Personalized Music Interventions

Every individual with dementia is unique, and so are their responses to music. This episode sheds light on the importance of personalizing music therapy. It's about finding the right type of music that resonates with the individual, whether it's classical, jazz, or pop.

Music Therapy in Action

Listeners and viewers are treated to stories of music therapy in action. From group singing sessions to individualized music listening, these stories illustrate the varied ways music therapy can be implemented in dementia care.

Enhancing Communication

The episode emphasizes how music therapy can enhance communication. For those who struggle with verbal communication, music provides an alternative means of expression and connection. It's heartwarming to hear about moments of joy and recognition as individuals connect with familiar tunes.

Emotional and Behavioral Benefits

Music therapy isn't just about cognitive stimulation. It also has emotional and behavioral benefits. Lizette and Alexis discusses how music can soothe agitation, uplift moods, and provide a sense of comfort and familiarity.

The Role of Caregivers

The role of caregivers in facilitating music therapy is crucial. We offers tips for caregivers on how to incorporate music into daily care routines, creating moments of joy and connection.

This episode is a reminder that in the challenging journey of dementia care, music therapy can be a source of hope and healing. Whether you're a caregiver or a health professional, these insights into music therapy offer a new perspective on dementia care.

You can find Alexis on:
Website: https://www.bridgetownmt.com
Email: [email protected]
FB: facebook.com/bridgetownmusictherapy
IG: instagram.com/bridgetownmusictherapy/
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/bridgetownmt/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@bridgetownmt

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Transcript

Introducing a Stress-Less Caregiving Program

[0:01] Welcome back to today's episode of Dementia Caregiving for Families.

A quick reminder for you, if you are a family caregiver living with somebody or supporting somebody who is living with dementia and you are ready to dive a little deeper into having having a not stressless, but stress-less caregiving experience using data and not just feelings.

Oh, I'm feeling stressed.

I would love to invite you to explore our new program as a founding member.

For the first 54 families who join my new flagship program, which is not a membership, but it is a family caregiving group program, I will give you two very valuable things.

The first one is for one person who joins the group program.

It's a low-cost group program.

[1:08] You can put your entire family circle in the program.

The second big benefit that I am going going to do for the first 54 founding members of this community is to offer them the ability to remain in the community and receive the group coaching all through the journey that their loved one is on related to dementia and dementia caregiving.

Long-Term Support for Dementia Caregivers

[1:38] So I really cannot think of a better time to get on board with this new, unique program.

[1:46] Like I said, it is not a membership. It is a commitment.

And the reason I decided to go with a commitment and not with a membership is because in order for you to benefit from the longitudinal or over an extended period of time support, you can't be coming in and out, in and out, just whenever, you know, drop your membership like a gym membership, right?

We all have Netflix, Hulu, those types of programs, and you can cancel them at any time.

And that's a wonderful benefit for something that's not as important as your own health and your own life and your own love of your family.

And when I say love of your family, I do not mean only the person that you're supporting with dementia, but your entire family.

You love your family. That's why you listen to this program.

So, I invite you to become a founding member of Dementia Caregiving Made, I'm sorry.

[2:47] I don't have a name for the program yet, so we'll just keep it at that.

By the time it airs, I'll probably have a name for the program.

But if you are a member of Dementia Caregiving for Families, this podcast, do become a founding member.

I'm giving you lots of benefits by joining.

We're going to grow this from the ground up, so you will have ability to give feedback back into what will make this group program, this group community, even better than it already is.

So if you're ready to sign up, the link is in the show notes.

Otherwise, send me the message, start on Instagram, and we will send you the information immediately, but only the word start. art.

Now, welcome to my guest today.

And it is very seldom that you meet such a wonderful young person who is beautiful on the inside, but also beautiful on the outside.

And Alexis has been extremely gracious to me because we are actually re-recording this podcast episode because I had had some technical issues and who knows where the recording went.

[4:06] So this is a re-recording of my interview with beautiful Alexis from Bridgetown, MT in order for us to bring you the benefits of music to people living with dementia.

Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families

[4:26] Hey there, success seeker. Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families.

Do you feel overwhelmed with the daily struggle of dementia caregiving, looking for an easier path?

You're in the right place. On this podcast, we teach you the skills to simplify caregiving.

We unravel the mystery of dementia and guide you through the often difficult behaviors.

I'm Lizette, your host, and fellow family caregiver.

As an occupational therapist, I bring my professional and personal experience to this community.

Here we speak the truth, but without the verbal vomit.

I know you will find value in today's program, so buckle up while this flight takes off.

[5:20] Well welcome to dementia caregiving for families and i am very very excited to bring a very special young lady by the name of alexis from bridgetown music therapy bridgetown mt onto our program today because i haven't had anybody talk about music and how music and and dementia caregiving can be such a compliment to one another to help your family caregiver.

As a family caregiver, number one, it can help you. Music helps everybody.

But number two, how you can connect with the person you love when you use music.

So I'm going to have Alexis start us off by just telling us a little bit about her and how did she get into doing music therapy, be, first of all, and then maybe how she got into how she's doing music now.

Ah, well, thank you so much, Lisette. It's an honor and privilege to be with you today and to have this conversation.

So I...

Alexis' Journey into Music Therapy and Passion for Dementia Care

[6:25] I started as a child with my interest in music.

I began piano lessons at age eight, and I grew up in a quote-unquote musical family.

[6:38] I think everyone's musical in some way, so I say that with quotes because it shouldn't be limited.

And I was always encouraged in learning an instrument and just really fell in love with music.

So that's one part of it. And then I've always had this natural bent towards helping people. I'm a helper at heart.

So I always wanted to do something that involved helping people.

I thought about counseling, psychology.

But then I was like, wait, wait, I want to do something that involves music.

And in high school, I learned about music therapy for the first time.

And the very first time I heard about it, I was like, that sounds like exactly something something I would want to do.

And the more I looked into it and learned about it, it really just clicked.

And I just knew it was what I was going to pursue.

So I went to school to become a music therapist, you're required to go to an accredited music therapy program, complete four years of coursework, complete 1200 hours of clinical training, and then take a board certification certification exam.

So that's the process to become a music therapist.

And then one more piece of it is my grandmother had Alzheimer's disease and she passed away when I was 17.

[8:06] And that's, I've always loved older adults. I always loved my grandparents.

But that was kind of my first first close exposure to someone living with dementia.

And I saw how music affected her and benefited her.

And I just really loved the idea of serving older adults living with dementia, specifically through music.

Now, I find it interesting that you, and I'm very grateful that you did this, explained to people what a rigorous training program a music therapist has, Because it's very easy for people to just say, oh, you're just playing music to people.

You know, there's no skill involved in that.

And it is a very highly specialized, highly skilled and trained complement to other types of interventions for multiple different things, not just dementia.

So can you speak a little bit more to that? Because a lot of people probably just think, oh, but I'm just playing, you're just playing music.

[9:12] Yes, it really is an intensive path to become a music therapist.

And that is true. A lot of a surface level people hear the phrase music therapy and they think, oh, you're just playing music for someone.

So that is very true. I hear that all the time.

It's really a multifaceted approach.

It's combining the arts and science. And it was like doing a double major because I was fully studying the music side of things and then the psychology and the therapeutic courses, learning how to be a therapist, and then really putting those together.

It's very in-depth. We learn how to serve all kinds of people of all ages.

Music therapy can be appropriate for any age, any population, all the way from birth through end of life.

So yeah, it's true. It's a lot of work.

It was very intense, but I think when you're passionate about something, when you feel so strongly called to it, it's easy, a little easier to get through it. And it's so rewarding.

[10:30] Wonderful. So I'm going to throw you under the bus a little bit because I didn't ask you this before, but I'm pretty sure that you have, based on your training, at least an idea.

I'm starting to think a lot more regarding evidence-based science type of things related to dementia, dementia caregiving and so on.

For example, it's one thing to say, oh, I help people be less stressed by doing the interventions and the things that I teach people or that I help decrease challenging behaviors with people using evidence-based practices.

Can you pull music therapy and your evidence-based science side together just a little bit for people who are listening who may never have thought about it as a science because it really is?

[11:24] Did you know that caring for a person with dementia doesn't have to be this hard.

[11:32] If you are struggling and you would like to join our next free workshop the topic of the workshop, is three tips how to avoid challenging dementia behaviors without stress anxiety or burnout i I invite you to walk away with science-backed dementia caregiving skills that many professionals don't even know after attending this free workshop.

If you'd like to register, message me the word workshop on Instagram or check out the link in the show notes below. Yes.

So there has been all kinds of research on music and how it affects the brain and body.

And music therapy is an evidence-based practice.

We use interventions that have been studied and shown to be effective in impacting someone in one way or another towards progress. progress.

And that's not to say that every intervention is appropriate for every person.

It's very individualized.

[12:55] So let's take the activity of singing, for example. Singing has been studied and its effects on the body.

And in general, we can say it really helps people.

It helps get more oxygen into the body, which helps all kinds of functions in the brain and body.

It improves self-expression it relieves stress so we can say that because it's been studied, that's that's just one example yes for sure and um as an occupational therapist we encourage like when i work with family members and people living with not so much their family although i was the one who would always walk down the hall singing with my patients but But when I know it's like a rhythmic auditory stimulation and all sorts of stuff, I just love, I would, I don't have a great singing voice, but I don't care.

So I just walk down the hall singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat because everybody typically knows that one.

But related to dementia and dementia caregiving, I know a lot of people, especially people.

[14:06] Earlier on could probably understand and see the value of music with somebody who is in the beginning stages of dementia and so on.

But I really want to talk about people in the later stages of dementia, because singing and vocalization, any kind of singing and vocalization at the later stages of dementia has actually been shown to be a very positive way of helping somebody with their, like you said, their breathing and their even swallow.

And we don't think about that. So you want to talk about that a little bit?

Yes. I love that you brought that up.

Singing can be effective at any level of dementia, but especially in the later stages, because a lot of times a person has lost so many abilities and functions.

And one of those might be the ability to speak in, you know, to form clear, organized sentences.

But sometimes people can still sing. And that's a form of self-expression.

And sometimes it's just...

[15:19] Moan or a hum or but it's still something auditory and I've even had clients that are not creating auditory sounds but they're mouthing the words and they're still benefiting from mouthing the words of the song one of my my favorite experiences as a music therapist is is helping people find their voice again, whether it's due to a stroke, due to dementia.

[15:48] Whatever the reason.

A lot of times people lose the ability to speak, but they can still be expressive in many other ways through music.

For sure. Yeah. It's been one of my experiences that when my children were little, I would make up random songs.

They made no sense, dance right but I but I just made up a song and I would sing that song to them over and over when they were going to sleep and that was their lullaby but it it didn't really make sense to anybody including me but I bet you if I were to sing it to them again somewhere along the lines they would remember something about the rhythm or the the feeling or something related to music So tell us.

The Power of Music in Memory and Impact

[17:08] Get linked to music and then that they get stored in our, in our brain and our body and in all kinds of ways.

And, and you never know when that will come up again and just be a positive impact for someone.

[17:24] Related to music and people who are living with dementia, one of my experiences.

[17:32] And you can speak a little bit more to this, I think, is that the further along in their journey they are, they may not be necessarily singing the songs that they would have.

You know, somebody who is like my parents, they're in their 70s, mid to late 70s.

They may not be singing the music from the 60s that they would have anymore, but they might have gone back to even more music from earlier on.

Have you had that same experience? Yes, and that's true.

So there's kind of a general rule of thumb with music therapy and music in general that people resonate most with the music from their teens, 20s, and 30s because those are the really formative years in a person's life.

But with dementia, sometimes they do, as they lose memories earlier on, and as those memories start to fade, they will go back to more in their childhood and might resonate most with songs from their childhood.

So, it's important not to rule out any, like.

[18:56] Any music. Yeah, yeah. You just, you always want to consider music from any stage of their life. For sure.

Starting a Business in Music Therapy for Dementia Care

[19:07] So, tell me, I know that you started working, I forgot, was it like a hospital or a kind of setting, but then you started your own business.

Tell us about your business.

[19:19] Yes. How do you help people? How can people connect with music for somebody that they love that they want to introduce this as a way to actually connect with their loved one?

[19:34] Yes. So just a quick timeline of how I got started, and then I'll share more about what I'm currently doing.

I've been a music therapist 10 years. The first three years of my professional career, I worked for a music therapy agency that I had interned with.

And then I decided to go off on my own and start my own practice.

That was late 2016, early 2017.

And that's when I began Bridgetown Music Therapy and decided to really focus on the older adult population and especially those living with dementia.

And I was a traveling music therapist.

So I would drive around to all my clients and I had contracts with various care communities, senior living, older adult care homes in the Portland, Oregon area.

And I would just be driving around to all these communities, providing music therapy services to the residents.

And that would be considered traditional formal music therapy where it's live in the moment and it's a consistent music therapist working with the clients. And then COVID hit.

[20:52] And all of my clients canceled in the span of a week because they didn't want an outside vendor going facility to facility, possibly spreading COVID, understandably with the older adult population most at risk.

Adapting Music Therapy Services During COVID

[21:09] So then I kind of tried some alternatives to providing service, but ultimately ended up combining, talking with my husband who is a professional videographer.

And we decided to try to put our skills together and.

[21:27] And he began filming me with creating these pre-recorded sessions.

So essentially taking my experience working in person with clients and putting it in video format.

So all the way down to how I interact with the camera, like the participants are right there with me.

I'm right there with them. and just like taking a really simple approach, slow paced, so they're not getting lost along the way.

We put all the song lyrics on the screen and it's all about engaging them in the music.

So it's not entertainment focused or teaching music.

It's not music appreciation. It's and music engagement.

So I would say about 80% of it is focused on, hey, let's sing together.

Let's actually sing. And will you sing with me? And really leading them into that.

And then I do a little bit of movement, gentle stretching, always seated, and then always incorporate deep deep breathing, and relaxation.

[22:40] So we have 30-minute sessions, we have hour-long sessions, we have individual songs, and we've created a whole library of on-demand pre-recorded sessions.

And it's not necessarily formal music therapy, though we do say it's dementia-friendly, it's music therapist-created, and it's just a membership model.

So when people sign up, They get access to the whole video library.

It is such a wonderful tool for people who want to have a place to start.

But, you know, music is awesome.

[23:20] There's a lot of music in the world, you know? So how do you, you know, for somebody who's not a musician or not sure where to start, I see such tremendous value in what you've built in the sense that it is curated and made easy for people to find in a structured way so that they can actually use it with the person.

Because I know a lot of people recommend, you know, just get an MP3 player, or even just listen to music on YouTube and so on.

And I'm not saying that those things aren't beneficial. For sure, they are beneficial.

[23:59] But if you have a person who needs to be engaged, a YouTube video isn't going to engage them in the activity.

And an MP3 player is just in their ears.

It's not an actual way of having engagement with another person.

Yes, it's virtually, but still with another person.

But then also families can do this together with their loved one.

They don't have to just say, hey, mom, just go sit and listen to your music over there.

You can join your family member and then everybody can sing together and make connections and and memories with that person that they are helping and supporting and love.

So what a wonderful gift that is to families.

[24:53] Did you know that caring for a person with dementia doesn't have to be this hard?

If you are struggling and you would like to join our next free workshop, The topic of the workshop is Three Tips How to Avoid Challenging Dementia Behaviors Without Stress, Anxiety, or Burnout.

I invite you to walk away with science-backed dementia caregiving skills that many professionals don't even know after attending this free workshop.

If you'd like to register, message me the word workshop on Instagram or check out the link in the show notes below.

Oh, thank you so much. And yeah, that's exactly the idea that it cuts out the scheduling.

So it's just an activity you can pull up anytime. time. It's a turnkey activity that's ready to go.

And it does differ from other... Music listening is great.

And there's specific...

[26:14] Situations where that's a perfect fit, but our program really brings in the human aspect that it's me on screen.

And I'm there for them, working with them, consistently showing up with them, even though it's a recorded video, it's, it's me on screen.

And I use my therapeutic therapeutic training and background to really engage them.

And I'm a huge advocate of music therapy services.

I, I've seen such a benefit. Yes.

If, if an individual or community is able to access a music therapist and hire them on regularly, that's fantastic.

And I'm, I'm always for that, but there's only 10,000 music therapists in the US.

So there's not many of us to go around, especially to serve all of the older adults.

So I saw a need for kind of a fill-in service until there are more therapists.

And also music therapy can be cost prohibitive for a lot of people.

So So our service is very easily accessible online anytime, and it's very low cost.

Now, this is maybe an ignorant question. Do you do some live groups with people?

[27:41] We do. We actually have a free resource.

We do a monthly live session over Zoom, and it's available to anyone.

We have two time options, and it's a great introduction to Bridgetown Music Therapy, who we are and what we're like.

And we do a different theme every month. We consistently get over 100 registrations.

It's becoming very popular, and we get people joining from all over the country, groups, communities, and individuals living at home.

And we just encourage anyone to join it because we always have a blast singing together and we do some movement and...

[28:33] We explore, it incorporates elements of lifelong learning as well with each theme we explore.

How do people access that? How, if they wanted to just get a little taste of you and the services that you provide, that seems to me to be a great way to get to know you a little bit better.

[28:53] Yep. Good question. Our main hub is Bridgetown Music Therapy.

The website is is BridgetownMT.com.

There's a bar at the top that says register for our live session.

There's a whole bunch of other info. There's info about our two programs.

So I'll just quickly mention Music with Alexis is our program name for groups and communities.

Singing at Home is for for individual use, those living at home.

And they're essentially the same program. They get access to the same library of content.

It's just a pricing difference for individuals versus groups.

So all of that is accessible from our main website, and it's a great way to learn more about us.

For sure. What a wonderful story. And I don't actually remember that I knew that your grandmother had had dementia and that was one of the reasons why you went into the older adults with cognitive impairment and dementia.

That's a very sweet story. Thank you for sharing that.

[30:09] Yeah, she really is my inspiration in many ways.

I remember she lived across the country, so we didn't get to see her all the time.

But I remember several times of going to visit her and and the community where she lived, and just...

Personal Experience with Alzheimer's and Inspiration

[30:27] Being at the age I was a little shocked at her decline and like, oh, wow, she doesn't remember my name or that I'm her granddaughter.

But yeah, that was really my first exposure to Alzheimer's.

So it's my inspiration in many ways.

Yeah. Isn't it wonderful that family can be so so inspiring to us. Indeed.

Right. So if there's one last thing you want people to know, either about you or the services that you have or how to connect with you, what would you like to share?

[31:08] Oh, good question. Well, I always like to say music is like a vitamin and a little bit each day does wonders for the body, mind, and soul.

So remember to take your musical vitamin.

And we are here for you. We're super passionate about what we do, using music to make a difference in people's lives.

And we'd be honored to support you.

[31:39] Wonderful. Thank you for being here, Alexis. Today, I am going to make sure that we have all of her information in the show notes and the description so you guys can connect with her there.

I really want you to sign up for her free.

I'm going to call it a workshop, but I don't know what to call it.

What do you call it? our free live music session.

The free live music session. I think that would be a wonderful way.

Number one, bring your loved one with, but number two, even if you cannot bring your loved one with, go yourself so you can see what the benefits are.

I know that, you know, for myself, if I'm having a hard day and I just need to get away a little bit, I put on my favorite 80s music.

Music. Absolutely. Right. And then I, I jam out in the kitchen singing at the top of my lungs and it makes you feel better.

There's just so much benefit to, to actually having music.

And what I find interesting is, you know, your brain actually shuts down when you can't hear music.

[32:44] So, and it's one of the last parts of our brain that still, that's one of the reasons music is such a valuable part is because it goes into that rhythmic part yep that's a very basic level of it's one of the first things we develop and one of the last things we lose so thank you for serving our older adults with cognitive impairment in this way i think you're offering a very much much needed um tool to people and i would encourage people especially especially and And this is really going to sound funny to a lot of people, but especially if your loved one is not necessarily communicative anymore, because these are the ways that you can actually make those connections again, where you can...

[33:36] You know even if it's a 10 second or a 30 second connection you can connect with a person living with dementia even at the very end of their journey and music is one of the ways that you can do that so i would encourage you to to do that and create moments of joy for you and your loved one and for for you if you do decide to do something like that please video record it you'll never be you'll never be sorry you have those videos of you with your loved one when you're doing these kinds of activities i love that well alexis yet again thank you so very much for being here i appreciate your time what a wonderful blessing and everybody else i will be back again in the next episode thanks for joining me today success seeker i pour my heart and soul into this program to serve you.

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About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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