Acoustics, music treatments help patients

Nikki Rosebrock, activity assistant, plays music for a resident at Peach Tree Place, a facility that is using music to treat Alzheimer’s patients.  

The fight against Alzheimer’s disease is draining both financially and mentally for those affected, but the acoustic hymns and tunes of music are finding a foothold in the effort to relieve a problem that currently holds no permanent solution.

The average cost of that fight is by no means an inexpensive one.

Memory loss and the declining ability to remember loved ones is a well known side-affect and an estimated $77,000 is the cost of a semi private facility with $42,000 being the estimated cost for basic services in an assisted living facility, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Peach Tree Place in Weatherford, a nursing home that has Alzheimer’s patients, is using music to combat the effects of the disease.

The method is part of an initiative that is being advocated by Music and Memory, a non-profit founded in 2010 and based out of New York with a focus on using music as a form of therapy.

 “We started last July with 15 residents,” said Peach Tree Place administrator Jason Kaether. 

“When they’re hearing this music that they listened to in their childhood or in their young adulthood some people that have been totally withdrawn, they start remembering dates, they start remembering places, they start remembering happy memories with their loved ones related to that music,” Kaether said. “We’ve had residents that have been totally withdrawn into themselves non-verbal, not responding to really any outside stimuli, when they get this music in their headphones on, they call it an awakening. They kind of come alive.”

“We’ve had some awesome results with all residents just increasing their quality of life.” 

The medications for the patients which often come in the form of anti-psychotics can pose a risk, but music treatment can often be a viable alternative.

“They’re hard on anybody’s body, especially on our senior population,” Kaether said. “The body’s ability to process the medications decreases as you get older, so it has this huge build-up effect and it can kinda weaken them. It’s hard on their kidneys, hard on their liver. So we use this now as an alternative.”

“Since we’ve introduced this program some of our residents (who) would have aggressive behaviors or severe anxiety or severe depression, we’ve been able to cut just in the six months we’ve started our program our anti-psychotic use by over 20 percent,” he added. “That’s been a huge deal in this facility.”

“We’ve been looking for a way to help somebody better their quality of life that doesn’t come from a pill bottle because there’s just so many side-affects and medication doesn’t work for everybody. It just doesn’t,” Kaether said. “You can’t have somebody, two different people, same age, similar behaviors take the same anti-psychotic medication and it might work great for one person and it might have the totally opposite effect on somebody else. So we’re constantly looking for ways to help our senior population have a better quality of life with the least amount of medication possible.”

The trend is something that’s gaining traction in the medical industry, Kaether said.

“That’s across the board, that’s in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, I mean everybody’s trying and I’m glad it’s turned into a movement, because I think it’s long past due,” Kaether said of reducing medications in favor of less riskier and costly alternatives.

Kaether believes that the current way of handling healthcare has been too dependent on medication.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans take prescription drugs, according to recent Mayo Clinic statistics published in a 2013 news release.

The percentage of persons using at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days was 48.7 percent in 2009-2012, according to official CDC statistics.

“It’s been described as controlling everything to medications,” Kaether said, when speaking of overall medication use. “Your blood pressure’s too high we’ve got this pill for you, you’re having this behavior and anxiety, we’ve got this pill for you, so you’re just treating the symptoms. It’s like turning the switches with these different medications. When you’re trying these alternate therapies … music therapy, pet therapy … you can stop the problem, the anxiety, the depression before it gets to a level where you’re having to give anti psychotic medications and you’re doing good.”