January was Alzheimer’s Awareness month, and on Jan. 28 five organizations in the Thompson-Okanagan region — including the Thompson View Manor Society in Ashcroft — launched the “Music and Memory” program thanks to a grant from Interior Savings.
Music and Memory is a therapeutic music program that provides special training to caregivers, enabling them to create personalized playlists of music to help people reconnect with memories and their loved ones. All five of the selected sites received starter kits that include a set of 15 MP3 music players, headphones, and adapters; a laptop, external speakers, and starter music; and Music and Memory certification and support.
Interior Savings contributed $10,000 to the project and received a matching grant of $10,000 from Concentra’s “Empowering Your Community” fund. They then put out a call to to care organizations and service providers in the Thompson-Okanagan to apply for five grants of $4,000 each to provide equipment and cover the costs of launching the program.
Seanna Sampson — community manager of Thompson View Lodge assisted living — says that Trish Schachtel, who was then the activities coordinator at Jackson House at the Ashcroft Health Centre, brought the program to her attention a year ago.
“Trish said ‘Let’s apply for the grant, because it can help my residents and yours,’” says Sampson. “Vicky Trill was applying for the same grant for the Ashcroft HUB, and we decided to do it together to benefit as many people as possible in the community.”
The equipment will be kept at Thompson View Lodge, which will spearhead the project, and share the equipment with Jackson House and seniors’ programs at the HUB. The Hospice Society will also be able to make use of the equipment.
It’s not the first time that Interior Savings has helped out Thompson View Lodge and Manor. In 2018, the facility was chosen as the focus of Interior Savings’ annual Day of Difference, with employees from the Ashcroft Interior Savings Credit Union and Insurance office spending an afternoon working to clear and trim the building’s grounds and gardens.
Sampson says that caregivers have already received some training to learn about the program, and that all staff at the Lodge will be trained. They have also received funds to purchase music from sites such as iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and have started gathering information from residents.
“We’ve been finding out what sort of music makes them feel good, and what resonates with them now, when they were young, and when they were middle-aged, and have been making playlists for each person. People remember where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with when they hear the music. With the MP3 players and the headphones they can listen anytime.”
She adds that the program will roll out slowly, starting with one person and taking it one at a time.
Music has been identified as having a powerful impact on those living with dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges. Music can awaken the brain and, with it, the rich trove of memories that people associate with familiar songs and beloved pieces. It has been shown to help create moments of joy and peace, and provide caregivers with another strategy to assist the people they care for.
Although the Music and Memory program is geared toward seniors, Sampson says it can help others with cognitive issues. “It helps with dementia, and with other cognitive issues, depression, and more. Music uplifts people, and brings back good memories. It’s starting to come into clinical settings.”
“Many of us have been touched by dementia and similar conditions,” says Kathy Conway, CEO of Interior Savings.
“Whether it’s our family or friends, we’ve seen first-hand the isolation that can result.
“As a certified age-friendly business with a community impact goal to promote social connection with age, we’re thrilled to help these organizations launch this remarkable program.”
The Music and Memory program is “a perfect example of local dollars for local good,” says Karma Kubbernus, branch manager of Interior Savings Credit Union in Ashcroft. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”