The Music & Memory program, which uses individualized music playlists on digital music players to unlock memories lost to dementia, is used at 250 nursing facilities in Texas. An expansion of the program will soon add 165 more. Pictured is a volunteer with a resident participating in the program at a San Antonio nursing home.

An innovative program that uses music to help spark the memories and language of long-term care facility residents will soon expand to include 165 more nursing homes.

Music & Memory, piloted by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services in 2015, builds on research that illustrates the positive effects of familiar music on brain activity. In addition to improving quality of life for residents, the music program also can reduce the use of antipsychotic medications in nursing facilities.

The expansion, the third phase of the program, will kick off in April with a ceremony in Austin. The first two phases of the roll-out brought 250 nursing homes into the program, said Quality Monitoring Program Director Michelle Dionne-Vahalik. She said Texas Health and Human Services is expanding the program to all state supported living centers. QMP, which transferred last September to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, continues to provide oversight for program.

Music & Memory helps long-term care staff set up personalized music playlists, delivered on Apple iPods and other digital devices, for those in their care. These musical favorites tap deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring participants back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.

Dionne-Vahalik envisions the program changing the way nursing facilities treat residents. "We are doing this to provide non-pharmalogical interventions to antipsychotics," she said. "By improving dementia care in long-term nursing facilities, we can improve the quality of care and quality of life for thousands of residents."

The University of Texas at Austin's School of Nursing’s Center for Excellence in Long-Term Care will launch a six-month study of the program set for release by the end of 2018. It will examine the use of individualized music therapy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in a long-term intermediate care facility.

“The study hopes to conclude that, through the use of individualized music playlists, we can increase engagement in meaningful activities, decrease challenging behaviors, improve staff moral and retention, and decrease the use of psychotropic medication,” she said. “With the expansion and results of the ensuing study, we hope to see providers offering this intervention as a normal part of care."