Personalized therapeutic music program helps Ecumen Meadows residents calm, connect By Jane Turpin Moore

WORTHINGTON -- There's a reason preschool teachers share the alphabet with young students via a familiar tune like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." It's because musical memories become deeply embedded in the human brain and are more easily recall...

Jeff Rotert, executive director of the WRHCF, presented a grant in the amount of $3,427 to Ecumen Meadows in late September for their new Music & Memory program. Rotert is pictured with Ecumen staff (from left): Cindy Gravenhof, memory care coordinator; Cheryl Dinsmore, life enrichment manager; and Nancy Garvin, executive director.

WORTHINGTON - There’s a reason preschool teachers share the alphabet with young students via a familiar tune like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”


It’s because musical memories become deeply embedded in the human brain and are more easily recalled than, say, rote lists of letters, words, numbers or other information.


Memories made with music can stick with us throughout our entire lifetimes, even when the aging process, dementia or other cognitive disorders take a toll.


“We find that when music is played - especially if it’s music a person was familiar with at an earlier time in his or her life - it can make a connection with someone who is maybe no longer able to recognize family and loved ones,” said Nancy Garvin, executive director of Worthington’s Ecumen Meadows Retirement Community.


Thus, Garvin and her staff were thrilled to receive a $3,427 grant last month from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) that is allowing the facility to bring the decade-old Music & Memory program to its Memory Care residents.


“We hope to have it all in place by the first quarter of 2018,” said Garvin.


Ecumen Meadows opened its Memory Care unit in 2011 and has 14 apartments dedicated to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.



“Of my 15 residents [one couple shares a unit], all are at various stages of the disease, from mild to mid to advanced stage dementia,” explained Garvin.


Guest musicians (singers, guitarists, keyboardists or other instrumentalists) are always welcome and well received by Ecumen Meadows residents of all kinds, but when local music therapist Molly Bishop started visiting on a weekly basis to work with Memory Care patients in particular, the staff noticed something dramatic.


“We see how much enjoyment our residents got from that - and Molly is just amazing,” credited Garvin.


“Their experiences with Molly helped us see that we needed to pursue more music-based programming, and we also read about the success other Ecumen sites have had with such efforts.”



Numerous studies, as well as anecdotal staff reports, indicate that Memory Care patients may sleep more soundly, require less medication, improve social engagement, display less agitation and even eat better when regularly exposed to music - especially music that has meaning to them.


“Our main objective is always to ensure that our residents are comfortable, but this may also allow for better interaction with their loved ones and keep them engaged and happier,” said Garvin.


“We are very grateful that the WRHCF recognized our request, and the value of this program,” said Garvin. “Our staff will begin training for Music & Memory in November.”


The specific Music & Memory program also involves Memory Care family members, asking them to complete a questionnaire that will help identify musical genres and specific tunes that residents relished earlier in their lives.


Then, personalized playlists are downloaded on individual iPods for each resident, with music of their preference available to be played at times they may need help calming down or connecting with others.


“It really increases their overall well-being, and we’re very excited for this opportunity,” said Garvin.


“If we can add more moments of joy, those times when you see their faces light up in recognition, that is so meaningful - and music is a huge connecting point.”


Cindy Gravenhof, the Ecumen Meadows Memory Care unit coordinator, will assist with the staff Music & Memory training and results tracking.


“After the first quarter of 2018 we’ll intensely examine the benefits of Music & Memory,” assured Garvin.


Gravenhof has also recruited her son and his classmates from Worthington Christian School to help set up the iPods, bringing about more intergenerational contact with residents along the way.


“We love having visitors and volunteers, and we’re always on the lookout for people who want to share their talents here,” encouraged Garvin.


Cheryl Dinsmore, life enrichment manager for Ecumen Meadows, coordinates such efforts at the facility.


“We’re very fortunate to have Cheryl on board, and the community support we get for our programming is wonderful,” added Garvin.


An additional gift of $1,200 from the son of a former memory care resident rounded out the WRHCF grant amount. Together, the two donations will aid in training Ecumen Meadows caregivers in bringing personalized digital music to the Memory Care residents.


“We thought this was a cool grant request, and Music & Memory will be a nice addition there,” said Jeff Rotert, WRHCF executive director.


“Anytime you can help families who are in that situation improve the life quality of individuals suffering from dementia, it’s a good thing that definitely meets the WRHCF mission,” he noted.


The Ecumen Meadows Memory Care unit is currently at capacity.


“It stays full, and we always have a waiting list,” Garvin said. “Alzheimer’s and dementia are still out there and aggressive as ever, but we are very proud of our Memory Care staff - and of all our staff, including dietary and housekeeping - because it’s important they have an understanding of the different people we serve and the problems they face.”


Summarized Garvin, “We’re really thrilled to receive this grant because we’ve seen firsthand the positive results Music & Memory has had at other Ecumen sites - and now we can bring it here.”


Visit Music & for more information about the personalized therapeutic music program. For information about volunteering or sharing music with Ecumen Meadows residents, contact life enrichment manager Cheryl Dinsmore at 372-7838.

What To Read Next
A resolution looking to allow the legislature to consider work requirements on the newly expanded Medicaid program is one step closer to the 2024 ballot.
Navigator CO2 Ventures is hoping to streamline the application process in Illinois as they add an additional pipeline to the mix.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the Wednesday, Jan. 25, crash.
Testimony to the top House committee from a convicted attendee of the Jan. 6 rally focused on the "inhumane" treatment of Jan. 6 defendants. The committee rejected a resolution on the matter 12-0.