Written By:  Gayle Horton

Alive Inside

The documentary “Alive Inside” was recently released in theatres in Atlanta.  After all of my years of working with Alzheimer’s patients, I am convinced that there is still a real person inside who is still hearing and thinking even though their brain is impaired.   This movie follows the story about a social worker Dan Cohen, who is the founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory.  Dan is noted for his fight against what he calls, a “broken healthcare system” to demonstrate music's ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.  

Many family members have witnessed the miraculous effects when music is personalized for their loved ones. The Journey Remembered DVD’s also offers music and visual therapy while holding their attention for longer periods of time while they are being entertained with positive images. 


Researchers are convinced that music and music therapy offers an effective method overall for treating symptoms of memory loss associated with dementia. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia would experience improved their social, emotional, and cognitive skills, while decreasing their behavioral problems.  Multiple studies regarding music therapy have proven to be an effective intervention for maintaining and improving active involvement.  In all of the studies the effect of music and music therapy were found to be highly significant.


These same studies showed that without the use of Music Therapy after four weeks however, the effects had mostly disappeared. Music therapy when used on a regular day to day schedule is a safe and effective method for treating agitation and anxiety in moderately severe and severe Alzheimer’s disease. 


In many situations Music Therapy has become a proven way to stop medicating people as a form of treatment for the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Today, I still find many health care professionals and families continue to push doctor’s to add anti-psychotic medications to control behaviors.  


As more and more studies show significant reductions in patient’s aggressiveness and anxiety, why are we not compelled to try a different method?  According to one Geriatric Psychiatrist that I have worked with over the years, states openly that he believes that we medicate patient’s to keep them in the wrong environment.  


The “BIG” question is why is Music Therapy or The Journey Remembered DVD’s not used as the first choice before using anti-psychotic drugs? 


As a Geriatric Nurse Consultant, I have been actively involved working with Alzheimer’s patients for over 17 years and I still do not have the answer.