USM student uses music to bring memories to dementia patients - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

USM student uses music to bring memories to dementia patients

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Southern Miss student Brady Leatherwood, left, and her adviser, Karen Aderer, are developers of the Finding Harmony Project, which brings individualized music intervention to nursing home residents at the Driftwood Nursing Center in Gulfport, MS. Southern Miss student Brady Leatherwood, left, and her adviser, Karen Aderer, are developers of the Finding Harmony Project, which brings individualized music intervention to nursing home residents at the Driftwood Nursing Center in Gulfport, MS.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

A Southern Miss student is helping elderly dementia patients in Gulfport reach back into their memories using music. Brady Leatherwood, a USM senior majoring in social work and her academic advisor Karen Aderer visit the residents at Driftwood Nursing Center in Gulfport on a weekly basis.

Their goal is to use music intervention to help dementia patients re-discover their memories.

"The music need to apply to their memory, it is not generalized music," said Leatherwood.

"We attempt to figure out what music they like by asking nursing home staff, family members and observing how they initially react to music."

Leatherwood and Aderer follow a method of individualized music intervention that is used nationwide called Music & Memory. The program uses personalized playlists for each patient to help them relax. Expert say music connected to a past memory can actually trigger lost memories. Aderer says the results they have seen are amazing.

"One resident, who is a former musician, asks to have his saxophone in his lap while he listens, and is able to finger along to the music," said Aderer.

Aderer said the project began when she gave a presentation about Music & Memory to her human behavior class at USM. Leatherwood came to Aderer after class and wanted to personally take on the challenge and work on the project. It has been all downhill from there.

"This project has re-affirmed my passion to go into gerontology. I knew it was an area needing to be addressed, but I wasn't sure if I was the right person," said Leatherwood.

"My fear and anxiety about working with the elderly are now gone, now I am positive this is where I want to be."

Leatherwood successfully proposed a grant which earned them $1,000 to go toward equipment for the project.

Leatherwood and Aderer said they are not finished with this project. They plan to expand and get more students from the school of social work involved. Their aim is to one day start a Music & Memory program in Hattiesburg.

"I think it should be standard in nursing homes, especially low-income facilities that do not have access to as many resources," said Leatherwood.

"The Finding Harmony project is really about connecting generations and optimizing the last years of their life. It's really gratifying."

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