Modern medicine nowadays tries to ‘fix’ us with pills and drugs, even when the latter type of medication proves to be ineffective. A natural phenomenon that we tend to medicalize is aging, a process we all have to face sooner or later. Statistics show that around 1.5 million people are institutionalized in the United States alone, 80% of which have been separated because they are suffering from Alzheimer or other forms of dementia.
For these people, a normal day starts and ends with powerful psychotropic drugs, with the treatment not aimed at curing the disease, but at making the patients more malleable and manageable. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on these drugs annually, providing limited relief and often comes with significant side effects. However, in this particular case, non-pharmaceutical interventions has proven to be more effective. Whether it is access to companion animals, dietary supplements, memory training or even art therapy, science has proven that the latter provide meaningful benefits without the cost or the dangers of drugs.
One of the most significant of all non-pharmaceutical approaches to Alzheimer and dementia patients has proven to be music. The concept is said to be very simple and involving a simple MP3 player, such as an iPod, and a special playlist for each patient. The benefits resulting from this approach are said to include better memory, improved mood, decreed pain, increased involvement in the world and enhanced well-being. 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Choice Award-winning documentary film by Michael Rossato-Bennett, Alive Inside (video below), is shown to provide a testament to the power of reconnecting dementia sufferers with their deepest sense of self.
Music is said to be a side door into a part of the mind that is relatively undamaged by dementia. People are said to process music with almost every part of the brain and music with personal meaning can promote extremely strong responses. Clinical studies have demonstrated that it is possible for personalized music to have a greater effect than medication and that it can even trigger long-term memories. It is said that there is currently no drug on the market that can help a person reconnect with their vital essence the way music does.
However, the practices shown in the documentary are yet to be considered as real-life effective treatment for Alzheimer or dementia patients. Nonetheless, this does not stop family members from using the powerful tool of personalized music with their loved ones.