Thursday, April 12, 2012

Music & Memory

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for the elderly and infirm through the use of personalized music and digital technology.” Based on the simple premise that through its many therapeutic benefits music can help reach hearts and minds, health care providers and family care givers use iPods and similar technology to try and bridge the gap left by other forms of therapy to reconnect with patients and loved ones, respectively, who were previously unresponsive. By stimulating their minds and transporting them to a happier time in their memories, they help bring peace and joy to lives that otherwise might have been lost forever.

The video found on the site’s homepage of an elderly man named Henry is a compelling demonstration of how music can stir a soul. Henry is at first unresponsive, sitting in his wheelchair with his head hanging low, his chin resting on his chest, but as soon as they place the headphones on, his head lifts, his eyes grow wide and he is alive again. It’s a moving sight to behold.

As soon as I read about Music & Memory I automatically thought of my mom. Unlike Henry, mom wouldn't have needed music for reanimation, but instead for comfort and escape from the life which had been turned upside down overnight. In 2009, when mom suffered a cranial hemorrhage, she developed sudden onset vascular dementia that brought with it severe anxiety whenever I wasn’t by her side. Confined to a wheelchair because she was no longer able to walk on her own, mom would insist on trying to get out of her chair which meant she needed a restraint, a fact that only stoked her frenzy. For reasons beyond me, probably the fact that we'd been closer than two peas in a pod most of my life, my mere presence was stronger than any dose of Xanax or Ativan being doled out during the day by the nursing staff, because while I’d walk into the nursing home to find her yelling and agitated, as soon as she'd see me a sense of peace would come over her - her face, her body language, her whole demeanor would change -- it was a sight to see and oh so humbling. I remember my own anxiety each day as I’d rush from work to the nursing home; desperate to get there as soon as humanly possible, frantic whenever I’d hit traffic because I knew she was dependent on me for her sense of peace and well-being.

Today I wonder if something as simple as music would’ve assuaged her fears and brought her solace during my absences. Would her face have lit up with a smile, transported to a happier time and place? I’ll never know that answer, but I know that I couldn’t pass on this opportunity to help someone else’s mom or dad, brother or sister, son or daughter. How can we help? The organization accepts monetary donations, but they also need donations of iPods, new and old. In fact, they are currently facing a shortage of iPod Shuffles for patients with special needs. I plan on making a donation, won’t you do the same? If you plan on upgrading your iPod soon, consider donating your old device to this great organization. Give the gift of music and touch someone’s life.