FAQ’s for Northern Virginia Mason Music & Memory Study 

How long is the training and how much does it cost?

All training is FREE. There is an online training at the start of the program that answers basic questions about the program.

Do we have to buy the mp3 players and headphones? How will we purchase songs?

We will provide you with 10 FREE Mp3 players, headphones, chargers and a $300 iTunes gift card to build your music library.

What is the evidence that a personalized playlist will help our residents?

Studies of the Music & Memory program have found that personalized music has the potential to awaken certain aspects of the personality of a resident with moderate to advanced-stage dementia. This awakening may allow the largely non-verbal individual to communicate with his family and caregivers, sing and experience joy and love, and even less agitation. These calmer moments can also indirectly improve staff work experiences and caregiver quality of life.

I understand that music can help with memory, but what if the personalized playlist brings up sadness and pain for our resident or increases agitation instead of decreasing it?

Social scientists have discovered that older adults have the unique ability to hold two opposing emotions – such as sadness and joy – at the same time.  Many memories may be bittersweet for listeners and bring up both smiles and tears. However, there are times when certain songs create more sadness or agitation than we would like to see. In those instances, there is usually one or two songs that are evocative and we can easily remove these songs from the playlist. Occasionally, an older adult does become more agitated by the entire experience of listening to music and in those cases we would simply discontinue use of the music for that resident.

What will our staff be asked to do for the research study?

Since this is a research study, we will be asking for specific information about the patient ONLY after we have the family or legal guardian’s consent.

We will be asking for the following before the study begins and after it ends:

  • Whether the participating resident is prescribed specific medications?
  • What is the total score from the Brief Interview for Mental Status (BIMS) (page 7 – Section C of Minimum Data Set 3.0)?
  • What is the total score from the Resident Mood Interview (PHQ-9) (page 9 – Section D of Minimum Data Set 3.0)?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of the resident?
  • To complete a brief questionnaire about mood and agitation for each resident.
How much of a time commitment will this be for staff?

Initially, there is a time commitment to starting up the program where we ask staff to attend the online training, help develop the playlists, and notify family members. However, after this initial start up period where the infrastructure is being put in place, the Music & Memory program is very easy to use and can be implemented at staff discretion. The only ongoing commitment would be to try to update playlists for residents by adding some new songs every few months to maintain interest.

Can volunteers be trained to help with Music & Memory or does it have to be a staff member?

Absolutely!  During our research study, you may have volunteers in your facility who are interested in helping with the program.  They would be able to access the training for direct care workers through our website if they choose to learn more about dementia and music. Or they can simply commit to showing up at specified times to make sure certain patients receive their “dose of music.” 

How do we create a playlist?

The Mason staff will support you through this process.  First, we will ask a family member to complete a questionnaire to identify specific songs that are most meaningful for the person – it is important that the music have personal meaning to the listener. If no one is available to ask – or family members don’t know – then we will help you estimate based on playing songs for the person with dementia that were popular from the relevant era when the person was young.  While we play these popular songs, we will watch for responses or reactions from the listener to see if any particular song resonates. 

How many mp3 players can be on one iTunes account per facility?

Unlimited mp3 players can be attached to one iTunes account in a facility. 

Who will be responsible for maintaining and updating the playlists for each resident? How long will we have the support of the GMU team for implementation of the program?

The Mason team is committed to supporting facilities to keep Music & Memory going long after the study is over.  Initially, Mason staff will help to create playlists and maintain them throughout the study. However, part of our goal is to stand up the Music & Memory program so it may continue after the study is over. Therefore, we hope each facility will select a Music & Memory lead person within the facility who will be responsible for updating playlists as needed after the study is over. If problems are encountered after the study is over, the facility is always welcome to contact Mason Music & Memory to receive ongoing support with the program.

How often should a resident listen to their music?
We hope that the Music & Memory program will become a regular standard of care in most facilities. For example, just as residents receive their medications each day, they would also receive their daily “dose” of music.  At any time during or after the study, direct care workers should feel free to provide the music to the resident.
Will speakers be available for residents who are not comfortable with headphones?

Yes, speakers can be arranged if necessary.