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May 6, 2024 14 mins
How does music help people with dementia connect and find calm, and what role can it play in dementia care? Our guest is Dr. Kendra Ray, a renowned dementia expert and the Dementia Program Director of the not-for-profit MJHS Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. MJHS is the last not-for-profit Jewish nursing home, providing short-term, subacute rehabilitation and long-term nursing care. For more, visit 
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Episode Transcript

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Welcome to Get Connected with Nina delRio, a weekly conversation about fitness,
health and happenings in our community onone oh six point seven light FM.
Good morning and thanks for listening toGet Connected. So you're scrolling through something
like social media and you see apost of an elderly person may be singing
beautifully and the caption reads something likewoman with dementia can't remember her family's names,

but remembers this song from her wedding. How does music connect to people
even with dementia and allow them toconnect with memories that they might not otherwise
recall. Our guest is doctor KendraRay. She's a renowned expert and the
dementia program director of the not forprofit MJHS Menora Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing
Care in Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn.Doctor Kender Ray, thank you for being

on the show. Absolutely, thanksfor having me today. You can win
a great intro. Oh, thankyou. It's always when you see those
videos, right, it's always sucha mystery how these things work. So
we'll talk a little bit more aboutthat. There's much more at MJHS dot
org. I wouldner if you wouldstart actually talking about the music therapy program
at MJHS to begin with, anda little bit about the work you do.

Yes, absolutely, I can tellyou that at our program we do
have music therapy about five times everyday, and most of the people who
we are working with do have moderateto severe dementia, and we use music.
It's a powerful, powerful thing toexperience how music can help serve people

who have dementia. We hear allthe time about how music helps people in
an associate, helps people associate withall kinds of different memories. It does
it for people on an everyday basis, whether you have memory loss or not.
What does science say about the impactof music on the brain, Well,
there have been lots of studies thatlook at music for the brain of

people who have dementia. I cantell you you know, specifically for my
own research, we have found thatmusic therapy can help to reduce symptoms of
dementia, and those common symptoms mightbe agitation, restlessness, depressive symptoms.
For other studies that I've seen,it helps to improve communication for many people

by bringing back memories and music oftentriggers memories and you'll see after they listen
to music, a person will lightup and they'll start to have normal communications
with their family. Music therapy hasbeen jun for some people to actually improve
their cognition. I'm a part ofthe group called the Unforgettables that's at NYU,

and we notice that for many ofthose participants, they can learn songs,
they can learn songs that are ina different language from what they speak
even though they have dementia. Sothere are lots of benefits of music and
music therapy for people who have dementia. And it's just wonderful to see and
what this is that on a dailybasis. So part of the reason we

wanted to have this conversation is totalk about your study and also maybe help
people who are a caregiver in theirown homes. I wonder if we could
start, maybe if you could walkus through how you and your team use
music. What do those sessions thatyou have five times today, what do
they look like. Usually it's eitherprovided on a one to one basis or

in a group setting. There aresome people who need music on a one
to one basis because they might bedealing with something that like depression, for
example, and they really need musicto start the conversation to start the conversation
to help them express what's going onin their mind. A lot of times
for the group sessions, I cantell you that we use singing, we

use drumming, We use the musicreally as a bridge to help to communicate
with many of the people who arethere. As I said earlier, it
does help people who have to mature, be present and be in the here
and now. And just for moredetail about the music therapy sessions, usually

it can last from about fifteen minutesto an hour, depending on the needs
of the participants and also you knowhow long a person can tolerate being in
a music therapy session. But everyday is different, every person is different,
So that means we have to makesure that the music is personalized,
that it is provided in the languagethat the person understands. So many of

our residents are Russian speaking speak,Gettish speak, Spanish speak Creole, or
are from Brooklyn, so really takingthe time to recognize what they historically listen
to, what radio stations did theylisten to who for example, or you
know, what concerts do they usedto go to, or what song did
they sing or play when they wereat home. So we really try to

take advantage of their history of themusic was and then use that to our
advantage in helping to connecting with them. Our guest is doctor Kendra Ray.
She's Dementia Program director of the notfor profit MJHS Manora Center for Rehabilitation and
Nursing Care in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. MJHS is the last not for profit

Jewish nursing home providing short term,subacute rehabilitation and long term nursing care.
You can find out more at MJHSdot org. You're listening to get connected
on one O six point seven lightFM. I'm Na del Rio. So
since every patient is different, andwe talked about for a moment about helping
with people who might be easily agitated, Let's say you're a caregiver at home

and the person you're caring for isone of those someone who gets stressed really
easily. What would a music therapysession look like with that person? Just
to talk about caregiving and using music, I can give you a great example.
I am performing a study that issponsored by the Alzheimer's Association where I
am teaching caregivers how to use musicin a therapeutic way at home. So

that means not just turning on theradio, but creating playlists using things like
Spotify or YouTube or you know,even TDS if that's something that is used
for them now. But every singleweek we talk about a topic, for
example agitation, we talk about howtiming is very very important. You want
to make sure that you know whenthe person that you're caring for becomes agitated

and know that music can help,especially if you put it on thirty minutes
prior to when the agitation might occur. We sing together. Many people think
that you know, just because they'renot Lady Gaga or when they used in
that they cannot sing, but actuallyyou can sing for the person that you're
caring for, and most of thepeople are acceptive and singing is probably the

number one intervention that music therapist touse, and so I really try to
encourage the caregivers to use that,especially you know they're caring for someone with
them, because we know that itcan be powerful and really helpful during caregiving
activities. I know you're looking formore participants for that study. You can
find out more about doctor Ray's homebased music study program at MJHS dot com.

Slash Study does this also work aswell for someone maybe someone loved music
they were a musician. Does itwork the same for somebody who just listened
to it casually over the radio throughtheir lifetime. Yes, And I'm glad
you brought that example of We dohave only a few people who we work
with who were musicians. And it'swonderful because many times, just because they

have dementia doesn't mean that they stillcan't play the piano or play their saxophone
or sing. But most of thepeople who benefit from music therapy were non
musicians. I think. You know, music is a part of our everyday
life, especially in New York.We hear music all the time. You
go to the train, you're listeningto someone playing song. You know,

lots of people have just on intheir headphones. But for sure, you
don't have to be a musician inorder to benefit from music therapy. And
how does this it's part of yourstudy, But how will this help the
caregiver? Yes, as a partof my study, I am looking to
see how caregiver distress in caregiver burdencan be affected positively, you know,

and hopefully that's the outcome. Ican just give you an example we started
research in the nursing homes teaching thepaid caregivers how to use music during bathing
and showering and also during wound care, and we found that people who had
music in the back grown or thecaregiver you singing, that the residents were

less resistant during care. It wasactually a very enjoyable experience, that only
for the person who's receiving here,but also for the caregiver. But for
the study at home, I dohave some preliminary data and outcomes that have
shown that quality in life is improvedfor the person with dementia, and caregiver

burden and caregiver distress has significantly reducedfor those who are implementing the music assistant
care activities that they've learned. Canany of this be done remotely, especially
if you have a grandparent or aparent you're not near. Can it be
done on a zoom call, FaceTimeanything like that? Absolutely. Our study

right now is virtual, so Iam meeting with caregivers virtually. But in
the nursing home city setting we dohave usually the grandkids are falling in using
either what's that or FaceTime along withthe kids of the residents, so a
lot of times we'll have like fiveor six people on a screen who are

having a music I'll just call ita music session with a resident. So
absolutely it's not bound by just beingin person. We can use music virtually
as well. It's also not amagical cure. You talked about it,
you know, using it maybe thirtyminutes before something that might be stressful bathing

for instance. Could you kind ofclarify how quickly does it work and what
it can't do right? For somepeople it's instantaneous. I have video recordings
that we analyze where the music startedand the people just stopped what they were
doing and just started snapping their fingersand singing and trying to move to the
music. And so you see thejoy. You see the joy that occurs

when that happens. But for othersit might take a couple of minutes,
it might take, you know,happen. We do notice the difference between
between before music therapy and actor.For some people it's really a gradual change
that occurs that their restlessness or theiragitation or their dad mood improves, and

then for others it might take multipleweeks. Like any type of therapy,
you know, sometimes you need tojust give it a chance to work.
So just depends on the person andyou know how they are receptive to music.
There are a lot of families inNew York and around the world really
who live, you know, withtheir grandparents, intergenerational families. Do you
have any thoughts about how to helpsomeone who wants to bond with their friend

or relative or neighbor with dementia usingthis Yes, just to go back to
the virtual aspect that I do wantto highlight that, especially during the pandemic.
You know, we had a lotof people who weren't able to visit,
and everyone wanted to do a videocall. But if you have dementia,
you have trouble communicating. So whatwe noticed was if we encouraged family

members to sing or to put theirfavorite music on the background during the calls,
then that gave them an opportunity tohave a conversation long many times that
was non verbal. That actually madesense. But I hear your question.
You were asking me about intergenerational activitiesthat people can do in New York war

around the world. Music can beshared by anyone. It doesn't matter your
age. A lot of people whoare an older adult, remember songs from
their childhood. So if you hadkids, encourage them to sing songs that
the kids might know, like youare my sonshye or Oh my Donald had
a farm. You know, songsthat everybody knows. That way they can

sing together. But the best thingto do, you know, if you
want to really spice to find outwhat your parents liked when they were twenty
or when they were thirty years old, put on that music, sit and
listen to it together. If youknow the song, sing the song and
you'll find that it really will openup a world of conversation and memories and

laughter and joy for both of you. If you'd like to participate in doctor
Ray's home based music study program,you can find out more at MJHS dot
org slash study. Doctor Kendra Rayis the director of the Dementia Program at
MJHS Menora Center for Rehabilitation and NursingCare in Manhattan Beach. Thank you for
being on Get Connected. This hasbeen Get Connected with Nina del Rio on

one oh six point seven Light FM. The views and opinions of our guests
do not necessarily reflect the views ofthe station. If you missed any part
of our show or want to shareit, visit our website. We're downloads
and podcasts at one oh six toseven lightfm dot com. Thanks for listening.
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