Nursing home patient with dementia, and his reaction to listening to music from his past. Watch video below.

Health Impact News Editor

Prescription drug abuse against the elderly is an epidemic problem in the U.S. today. Consider the following facts:

  • According to the Office of the Inspector General, 304,983 elderly nursing home residents in the U.S. were given dangerous, and often deadly, antipsychotic drugs, of which 88% were prescribed off-label for dementia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs can double the risk of death and triple the risk of stroke for seniors.
  • Antipsychotics have also been found to double the risk of pneumonia in the elderly.  Other side effects include cardiovascular death, cognitive slowing, sedation, risk of falls, uncontrollable movement of the face and extremities, and other Parkinson’s-like events such as tremor, slowed motion, rigid muscles, and impaired posture.
  • “The way antipsychotic drugs are used in nursing homes is a form of elder abuse….  Instead of providing individualized care, many homes indiscriminately use these drugs to sedate and subdue residents,” stated Patricia McGinnis, Director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
  • There are currently about 1 million nursing home patients on antipsychotic drugs. (Source.)


However, research now backs up the experience that personalized music has tremendous therapeutic benefits for seniors, allowing them to overcome dementia without drugs. Watch this remarkable film clip from Music and Memory that has over 1 million views on YouTube, and see how music instantly changes one nursing home resident:

Lemon Grove Care & Rehabilitation Center near San Diego has reported that since they introduced iPods and personalized playlists to their residents, antipsychotic medication has been reduced by over 50%!

Music and Memory publishes an impressive list of peer-reviewed research to back up the healing claims of music in the lives of seniors. Music and Memory’s mission is to collect older unused iPods and donate them to nursing care facilities around the nation where staff and family members can help residents develop their own personal playlists, with music they enjoyed from their past.

Music and Memory features another success story on their website at New York’s Coler-Carter SHNF:

The MUSIC & MEMORY℠ program has played an important role in the facility’s ongoing efforts to improve quality of life for residents, as well as to reduce use of antipsychotics.

Beginning in 2009, says Dr. Ravindra Amin, Chief of Psychiatry, “We began a global review of our use of antipsychotics, with a goal of determining how we could reduce unnecessary use.”

The facility’s multi-intervention approach included staff training focused on how to manage resident behaviors, when to use antipsychotics, when not to use them and when to eliminate them entirely. Dr. Amin says MUSIC & MEMORY℠ was woven into that process as another intervention.

Between January 2011 and June 2013, use of antipsychotic drugs among the facility’s dementia residents dropped from 38 percent to 13 percent, well below the national and New York State averages of 23 percent and 20.5 percent, respectively. That accomplishment earned the facility a Grand Prize at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s Patient Safety Expo 2013. (Source.)

To find more about the Music and Memory program visit their website here.

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