On Tuesday the World Health Organization released its first set of recommendations for globally reducing the risk of dementia.
The guidelines include regular physical exercise, not using tobacco, drinking less alcohol, maintaining healthy blood pressure and eating a healthy diet — particularly a Mediterranean one.
But for those already suffering from memory loss, music has become a common therapy and one Pasco County facility is turning to technology for its treatment.
At the Watermark at Trinity in New Port Richey, caregivers are using music apps like Spotify to curate custom playlists for memory loss therapy. Patients, or their families, fill out forms to give staff an idea of important songs from their past, like the first dance at their wedding or the theme to their favorite show.
Memories tied to music are stored in a different part of the brain, so they can be accessed even as memory loss from dementia progresses.
Community Life director Julie Morosani explained it can work wonders to improve a patient’s mood and interaction.
“I’ve seen people with their heads down, and after hearing the music they perk up,” she said. “They start singing the words to the song.”
Jazzmin Cabrera is one of the caregivers who creates playlists for patients like Marsha. As patients remember songs from decades ago, she’s introduced to music she’s never known.
“So many songs that I never knew before I started my job here,” Cabrera said. “I’m singing and everyone’s asking ‘how do you know that song?'”
Once upon a time, John Musulin and his wife Marsha would dance the night away. Marsha doesn’t dance much anymore, as she suffers from dementia and has been in memory care assisted living at Watermark for about a year now.
Musulin said his wife responds well to the music on her playlist, which criss-crosses decades and genres to help jog her memory.
“Music is important,” he said. “It really is.”
The World Health Organization says dementia affects 50 million people worldwide, with ten million new cases every year.