Researchers use music program to help bring back patient memories

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Music can trigger memories of lyrics that are associated with important life events.

At Mather Pavilion in Evanston, Eleanor is singing.

"I can't always follow it, right now my throat sounds pretty good," she said.

This is one of several facilities around the country that is using the music and memory program with people who have dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"Music and memory is the marriage of the music that we love during the time that we loved it," said Activity Director Michael Fehland. "For many people, that was during their teen years."

"It's incredible to see how a resident with end-stage Alzheimer's can be transformed by music," Fehland said. "We also get to see when you put the headphones on, it immerses them in that symphony in that song, they start singing, they start playing the piano, they start smiling, they might talk about their experiences."

Each of the residents in the program has an iPod Shuffle with headphones.

"We contact the family members and ask them, 'What does your mom love? What's important to her?'" Fehland said. "So that's what we actually get because we go into the iTunes store and buy that specific song, use the CD's that are important to them."

"It's about observation, and sometimes it really takes keen observation because some of them might not be able to communicate verbally and say, 'I loved that concerto,' but you watch them and you see their eyes glow," Fehland said. "You see their movement you see more in their responses."

"It gives you a good feeling," Eleanor said.

If you want to learn more about the music and memory program, visit or
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