Film 'Alive Inside' shows power of music with Alzheimer's

Jan. 16, 2014 at 6:15 PM
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PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The film "Alive Inside," shows patients with dementia visibly light up when they hear songs from their youth, says the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

The film, which premieres this weekend in Park City, Utah, follows Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory in 2006, a Long Island New York, non-profit that brings donated iPods to nursing homes around the country, providing the elderly with their own personal music -- many for the first time.

Some who haven't listed to their music for decades are brought to tears hearing a tune they haven't heard for decades, while others speak freely for the first time after years of agitation and being dulled by anti-psychotic medication.

"People said, 'Oh, how nice, you're bringing old people music.' And I said, 'No, you don't get it. It's really life-changing,'" Cohen told the New York Daily News.

Younger adults have portable music players, Cohen said, "But a lot of people have been separated from their music for 10 years or even more."

Henry, an Alzheimer's patient at the Cobble Hill Health Center, was filmed as he was given a pair of headphones and became to sing and dance to the music -- the first time he expressed such emotion after 10 years at the home. Henry became a viral YouTube hit and was viewed nearly 8 million times, the Daily News said.

"In some sense, Henry has restored to himself," neurologist Oliver Sacks said in the You Tube video, "he has remembered who he is and has reacquired his identity for a while."

Nursing home often use anti-psychotic drugs to calm patients down, but in some cases, music eliminates the need for drugs, Cohen said.

At Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility on Roosevelt Island in New York, the use of anti-psychotic medications among 500 dementia patients fell from 38 percent in January 2011 to 13 percent in June 2013, after the hospital implemented the Music & Memory program, Cohen said.

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