Austin Federation of Musicians

Music & Memory Project

  June 4, 2015  

Music and Memory Helps Improve the Lives of People with Alzheimer’s

Some Texas nursing homes will soon begin using individualized music playlists to try to reduce the use of antipsychotic medication for people with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) has selected 32 nursing homes from the many facilities that were nominated to participate in a pilot project for the Music & Memory program. The goal is to help residents reconnect with the world through specific, music-triggered memories. Family members and nursing home staff will create personal playlists for use on digital music players, such as iPods.

Dan Cohen, who founded Music & Memory, believes that musical favorites tap “deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring residents and clients back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again – to converse, socialize and stay present.”

What’s happening in Texas

DADS is using existing Civil Monetary Penalty funds to certify nursing homes to participate in the program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved the pilot.

Participating facilities agree to:

  • Have a minimum of 15 residents participate.
  • Expand the initiative in its own facilities.
  • Participate in monthly educational webinars.
  • Share data with DADS, including:
    • the percentage of residents receiving anti-psychotic medication pre- and post-pilot, and
    • progress made toward the goals, including reductions in anti-psychotic medication usage, decreased falls, and improvements or declines in other CMS quality measures.

About Music & Memory

A documentary about Cohen’s work, Alive Inside, won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Clips from the film are available on YouTube and demonstrate the impact a personalized music playlist can have on someone with Alzheimer’s or another cognitive impairment.

Cohen’s ongoing research has shown:

  • Residents are happier and more social.
  • Relationships among staff, residents and family deepen.
  • Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.
  • Staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.
  • There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.

Want to learn more?

For more information about the Music & Memory pilot, email the DADS Quality Monitoring Program at