September 30, 2022
5 Minutes Read

Connie's Memory Loss Journey: Improving Cognition with Music Therapy

After a stroke in 2017, many activities that Connie enjoyed for years, like connecting and expressing herself through music, as well as performing necessary cognitive and physical daily activities became challenging.

Senior community member, Connie improving cognition with music and integrated therapy.

After a stroke in 2017, many activities that Connie enjoyed for years, like connecting and expressing herself through music, as well as performing necessary cognitive and physical daily activities became challenging.

Connie was born in Lexington Kentucky, and from an early age enjoyed “dressing to the nines.” Even today, she is still fashion-savvy donning fancy outfits and lavish hats. Growing up, Connie developed a passion and love for children and wanted to inspire young lives. She became an elementary school teacher after moving to Edwardsville, IL with her husband.

Through the years, Connie and her husband shared a love of music. Her husband was a musician and professor of music, while she enjoyed playing the piano. Music has always been a big part of Connie’s life, and she finds it as a genuine way to express herself.

With the passing of her husband, Connie moved to a senior living community. In 2017 she suffered a stroke. As a result, many of the activities she once enjoyed for years became challenging. This was further compounded with the inability to perform necessary daily activities. Her expressive language abilities (something she loved using in her teaching career) and the ability to eat and drink safely were suddenly limited. She needed full assistance eating and experienced severe impairment in reasoning and problem-solving abilities. She additionally presented moderate impairment in focused and filtered attention and had a severe impairment with verbal expression.

Connie’s caregivers recognized that Connie needed to reconnect to motivating daily activities and habits, and quickly connected her with EmpowerMe Wellness therapists located within her senior living community. From there, her EmpowerMe therapy team formulated a customized plan of therapy with a goal to actively restore her ability to communicate clearly, eat safely, reconnect to her personal history, and participate in the activities she enjoys

Connie’s treatment involved a 60-day intervention that included a combination of alternating services of physical, occupational, and speech therapies to provide consistent cognitive-communicative engagement and physical exercise. Knowing that Connie loved expressing herself through music, EmpowerMe therapists created a customized plan for maximizing her speech and communication abilities using musical activities as a personally rewarding motivator.

Throughout her 60-day intervention, Connie participated in patient tabletop exercises, matching pictures, letters, numbers, and shapes to improve cognition. She also created a personal history book to connect her to her personal story with increased cognitive confidence. With music therapy, singing and moving along to familiar songs helped to improve her speech and regain key movement in a way that was most personally rewarding for her.

According to her caregivers, Connie is now more verbal and seems happier since starting therapy. Before treatment, she had a severe impairment in reasoning and problem-solving abilities, a moderate impairment in focused and filtered attention, severe impairment in verbal expression, and needed full assistance with eating. Since the intervention and through continued therapy two times per week, Connie can communicate verbally through repetition of short, conversational phrases (ensuring both safety and connection), expresses motivated interest in learning new common phrases for improved verbal production, and can now eat independently.

Her motivation shows in her daily routine, as she often comes to the therapy department in her community and looks for the Speech Therapist to see if it is time for her therapy session. She often has a bounce in her step and a smile on her face.

Beyond impacting her own journey of recovery, Connie’s love of music and success with promoting speech/language production through music has prompted the creation of a new EmpowerMe Wellness program called “Interactive Music Sessions” offered to all residents.

Prior to Treatment

Severe dysphagia, impairment in alternating and divided attention, reasoning and problem-solving abilities, verbal expression, and safety awareness for intake (impacted by dementia), and moderate impairment in auditory comprehension.

After 60-Day Intervention with Alternating Therapies

Connie now eats independently with only set-up needed, communicates in short utterances with yes and no response gestures, and can recall from her personal history booklet with rote phrase completion for 10/12 prompted attempts.

Inspired by Connie's love for music and journey of recovery after her stroke, all EmpowerMe residents can now benefit from the joy of growing in verbal, physical, and cognitive expression through music.