Personalized Music Invigorates Many Skilled Nursing Residents with Cognitive Challenges

By July 21, 2016 Blog No Comments

Sometimes a new program works so well for skilled nursing residents at one Plaza Health Network facility that we feel compelled to expand it to others. This way, more people in our care can reap the benefits.

That’s the case with the new ‘Music & Memory’ program, recently launched at South Pointe Plaza on Miami Beach. Staff, families and loved ones there report that providing personalized music to residents with dementia and other memory conditions improves awareness, mobility, socialization and overall temperament. Providing patients with the music they love the most is key – it triggers positive emotions that can improve their day-to-day mood and interactions.

“It is a great pleasure to observe the residents smiling while listening to their personalized playlists. They are more interactive with each other, more energetic and happier all around!” says Rachel Schuster, MPA, NHA, the Administrator at South Pointe Plaza who first embraced the initiative. “Music & Memory is enhancing their quality of life which, at the end of the day, is one of our primary objectives.”

Backed by Sound Science

Importantly, these are not just observations — the benefits are supported by clinical research. “The program is grounded in extensive neuroscience research about how our brains respond to music,” says Long Island, New York social worker Dan Cohen, MSW who developed Music & Memory based on his professional experiences.

Cohen says, “This personalized music system [which incorporates the music of the person’s own life] is profoundly linked to emotions. Those memories are stored deep in the brain. While Alzheimer’s disease damages the ability to recall facts and details, it does not destroy the lasting connections between a favorite song and special music memories from important events.”

Music & Memory helps many silent or non-communicative residents talk and become more social, researchers find. It allows sad or depressed patients to become happier and less agitated.

Playing to a Larger Audience

This month, patients living with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders at Jackson Plaza in Miami’s Health District will also gain access to new iPods to participate in this one-of-a-kind program. South Pointe Plaza and Jackson Plaza are both 5 Star Rated facilities from CMS, and have both received Bronze Awards from the American Health Care Association.

The gains in patient awareness and interaction justify the cost of expanding the initiative to help patients at other Plaza Health Network facilities as well. The Plaza Health Network Foundation funds the program, and thereby provides a service to patients and residents who would not otherwise be able to receive it. “The Music & Memory program impacts patients’ quality of life and sets the Network apart as an innovative leader in care and services for our elderly,” says Ilene Zweig, Executive Director of the Plaza Health Network Foundation. “We are honored and proud to fund this unique program that will help so many patients and their families.”

Through this expansion, we expect the Music & Memory program will continue to help more patients with cognitive challenges make notable improvements. At the same time, ongoing research is designed to monitor and formally record the advantages already seen by family and professional staff at our skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

For more information about the Music & Memory Program at Plaza Health Network, contact Ilene Zweig, Executive Director, Plaza Health Network Foundation, at (305) 917-0405 or