Give the Gift of Music to Your Alzheimer’s or Dementia Patient

Elderly Man Playing Guitar

If music be the food of love, play on. – William Shakespeare


Posted by Steve Jones

Tue, Nov 4, 2014

It’s not surprising that sudden feelings of joy, contentedness, or relaxation can be conjured by a particular song coming on the radio. Our brains connect music with memories, reminding us of good times at parties, weddings, road trips with friends, touching movies, and more. When music is played, our brains light up with activity. It releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that tells us something is pleasurable and regulates emotional responses and motivation.

Over the last 20 years, research has started to pick up on the relationship between music and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia patients. The results are clear: music can be a viable alternative therapy to calm agitated patients and bring joy back into their lives.

Starting a Trend

That’s where the MUSIC & MEMORY: iPod Project comes in, bringing new and used iPods to people with ADOD (Alzheimer’s disease or dementia) in their homes and in long-term care facilities. The program began in 2006 in New York City and has since grown across the U.S. and Canada.

Each iPod is customised for the patient, loaded with their own personal favorites with the help of friends and family. The iPod also comes with a set of headphones and technical support to help the patient and caregiver(s) operate it easily.

iPod Project in Toronto

The Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto participates in the iPod Project, providing 1,300+ Toronto residents with free personalized iPods. The eligibility requirements are simple:

  • The iPod recipient must have a formal diagnosis of dementia.
  • The caregiver OR iPod recipient must reside in Toronto.
  • The iPod recipient may reside at home or at a care facility.
  • The caregiver must be willing to receive a telephone call from an Alzheimer Society of Toronto social worker.
  • The caregiver must agree to provide feedback (via entry and exit surveys explained and conducted by their Alzheimer Society of Toronto social worker).

Click here to learn more and apply to receive an iPod for your loved one.

Extending the Benefits

Music therapy can bring “improved cognition, communication, and quality of life for older persons with ADOD [Alzheimers Disease or Dementia], as well as an improved ability to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) such as depression, anxiety, agitation and aggression, according to an evaluation conducted in March by the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto.

However, the study also found that the benefits of musical therapy for dementia patients reach beyond those with the headphones on. Caregivers can get much-needed respite and relaxion, as well as a big victory point to see their loved one or patient enjoying themselves, tapping their feet or swaying their bodies.

The pressure for a caregiver, especially a family member, to constantly provide for and watch over an elderly patient with dementia can be overwhelming. Music time gives caregivers an opportunity to catch up on other tasks or time to de-stress and recharge.

If you know someone who might be eligible and would benefit from the iPod Project, share this blog post or go directly to to apply on behalf of the patient.


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