Over the past few months, a music-based therapy program has been introduced to dementia residents at the Perry Lutheran Home. “Music and Memory” allows residents to revisit pieces of their history by simply plugging in headphones to an iPod shuffle and pushing play.


Perry’s facility is the nineteenth in Iowa to adapt the program.


“We’re working on getting it rolled out,” said Alyssa Poland, IdentitE Program Director for St. James and St. John’s.


While only sixteen residents are currently utilizing the program, the Lutheran Home hopes to have all first floor residents and dementia patients on board by August.


Poland was introduced to her brother three years ago, she says. After watching the Netflix documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” Poland felt moved by the overall goal: connect those with dementia back to their memories.


“Music has a way of connecting all parts of the brain,” Poland said. “Even if it’s a compromised brain, there’s other parts firing still and it makes those connections a lot easier.”


Upon interviewing for the Perry Lutheran Home, Poland brought up the program and encouraged the facility to take it on. Once she started working at the Perry Lutheran Home in November, the facility became certified to the begin Music and Memory in December.


“Music and Memory has since expanded; they’ve added so much more and have so much support so it’s even better now,” Poland said.


With a little under twenty iPod’s on hand, Poland said family members of residents have shown their support through donations for the musical equipment. The iPod shuffles are allegedly the easiest to utilize as its clip accessory works well with residents who like to walk around.


Each resident will have their own iPod shuffle with music accommodating their preference. However, the process of narrowing down music has been tedious, Poland acknowledges.


Families help navigate through artists as they are given a packet that lists specific genres of music.


“If you do get a list of family or staff, well, I want to narrow it down,” Poland says. “It’s the largest piece in what takes the longest time.”


Poland focuses on each person and is able to understand whether or not the specific song is working by their reactions after pressing play.


“There’s people that aren’t able to normally complete a sentence, but you put their music on and all of a sudden they’re singing every lyric,” Poland said.


She witnesses other reactions: a resident’s face lighting up, a smile spreading across their face, eye-contact, and even an explanation of past memories.


“We’ve got another resident who really is not engaged as much; men are more difficult to get engaged just because their focus throughout life is typically on work,” Poland said. “He lit up and told me about his wife and all of these stories that I don’t think I would have heard without playing Glenn Miller.”


In order to simplify the search, the Luther Home has begun to seek out ‘Music Detectives,’ or volunteers who can help simplify an artist or genre-based list for each resident. Poland says around thirty volunteers from the Perry High School have expressed an interest.


On May 8, Poland and Quinn Adair, Administrator at Perry Lutheran Home’s Main Campus and Spring Valley Campus, will visit the Perry High School to talk with them about the ‘Music Detective’ process.


After each iPod is personalized, residents are able to use their device as often as they wish.


“We haven’t needed to use a time limit,” Poland said. “Typically they pull off their headphones to be done.”


Later this fall, a free public showing of the Netflix documentary “Alive Inside” will take place at the Lutheran Home. The date has not been announced for the showing.


“There’s so much neuroscience behind how music can affect the brain,” Poland said. “The more personal it is, the better result it is. “