I recently came across a documentary called Alive Inside. To call it inspirational would be an understatement. Alive Inside focuses on a social worker named Dan Cohen as he explores the flaws in the way that our health care system treats patients suffering from memory loss, and explores the well-documented rehabilitative effects that music has on these patients.
It's rare to see a documentary focusing on a group that typically receives so little attention. Memory loss patients tend to be elderly, and whether it's because we share a cultural mentality of "it's just their time," or because our society is largely ignorant of pain and isolation that these men and women frequently have to endure, with little help, enveloped in a fog of confusion, many of these patients are left to suffer silently when this doesn't have to be the case.
Music is a universal aspect of what it means to be human. There is no culture of which we have record that did not have music, and even today, it has the power to move us in incredible–and at times, almost incomprehensible–ways. The state of Wisconsin has realized this, and they are giving an unprecedented kind of attention to memory loss patients on a state-wide level. When we think of progressive, innovative states, Wisconsin probably does not jump to the top of our list, however, they have instituted a program that they call Music and Memory, about which they write:
"The Wisconsin Music & Memory Program has been designed to bring personalized music to individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.
The Wisconsin Music & Memory Program has successfully funded 250 nursing homes to become certified MUSIC & MEMORYSM facilities through Dan Cohen's MUSIC & MEMORY SM Certification Program.
The certification process required nursing home staff to attend a series of three 90-minute webinars, taught by MUSIC & MEMORY SM founding Executive Director, Dan Cohen, MSW."
This is an excellent step towards helping a community that many seem to have given up on. Dementia is frequently perceived as a one way street – it may be slowed down, but not reversed. This is such a common issue all across the world, and the rehabilitative effects of music deserve far more attention. Please look into Alive Inside. See if it's playing in a theater near you, or buy the documentary here. This is a wonderful example of the power of attention. Let's all do what we can to spread the word.