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Press Releases

Music and Memory Program at NYC Health + Hospitals’ Skilled Nursing Facility Improves Quality Outcomes for Residents with Dementia

Data Shows Reduction of Falls, Violent Behavior and Use of Antipsychotics Among Long Term Care Residents

Program's impact is documented in short-film, "Healing with Harmony: A Music & Memory Story"

May 16, 2016

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Dr. Ram Raju today announced the results of a new music therapy program that has helped one of the system’s skilled nursing facilities to improve quality metrics and the quality of life of dementia residents.
With a combination of personalized iPod soundtracks, daily dance and movement activities, and weekly musical performances, the “Memory Care” program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler, an 815 bed facility on Roosevelt Island, reduced falls, violent behavior, and the use of antipsychotic medications among residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The program is run by a designated team of trained staff who have received official certification as “Dementia Care Practitioners.”
“When the music starts, lethargy becomes laughter, isolation becomes interaction and we can break through and make a special connection with our residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Raju. “I’m very proud of our expert team of doctors, nurses and therapists at Coler for their innovative use of music to improve the quality of life of our most frail and elderly patients. Their caring, compassion and culturally responsive approach exemplifies the unique attributes of our essential health system.”
The program’s impact on patients and staff is captured in “Healing with Harmony: A Music & Memory Story,” a new short film produced by The Fund for NYC Health + Hospitals, which documents the breakthroughs that remembered songs and music can elicit in people who once seemed to be unreachable. The film recently garnered the Communicator Award of Excellence from the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts.
“Dementia is not an identity, it is a diagnosis. And people still continue to be the people who they are,” said Dr. Ravindra Amin, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler Chief of Psychiatry.
The new music therapy program targeted more than 100 patients in two Memory Care Units at Coler, specializing in the care of patients with dementia due to any cause including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular causes or traumatic brain injury. At the heart of the successful interventions is the Music & Memory program which features personalized iPod soundtracks for individual residents.
The effectiveness of the music therapy program shows measurable improvements in quality outcomes from 2014-2015:

  • 78% of patients participated in Music & Memory during the last quarter of 2015 compared to only 4% of patients participating by the last quarter of 2014;
  • Rate of antipsychotic medication use in special care dementia units in the country is known to be much higher than the national average of 17.4%. The percentage of residents requiring antipsychotic medications dropped from 30% to 18 % at Coler, a significant trend that is expected to continue;
  • The number of patients involved in physical altercations dropped to zero from 8 incidents the previous year;
  • The number of falls dropped to three from 11 the previous year.

“With the help of music, dance, laughter, and connection, we are leading an innovative treatment program that offers the promise of improved lives for residents and their families, as well as for our staff,” said Maureen McClusky, NYC Health + Hospitals Senior VP of Post Acute/Long Term Care Services.
“Indeed, the program also has benefits for the residents’ caretakers. Music & Memory has impacted the staff as well by reducing the stress that we can experience by trying to make residents comfortable,” added Edith Johnson, a nurse at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler.
“Music evokes powerful memories for most people—and music’s power is especially evident for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Even in the very late stages of the disease, music can spark compelling outcomes. At Coler, we are extremely proud of our innovative Memory Care Program and the positive effects our professional and compassionate team has on our Memory Care residents,” said Floyd R. Long, Interim Chief Executive Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler.

Contact: Press Office, 212-788-3339

About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation with a network of 11 hospitals including six regional trauma centers, community-based health centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, and a correctional health services unit. The system includes a home care agency and a health plan, MetroPlusHealth. The health system provides essential services to 1.2 million New Yorkers every year in more than 70 locations across the five boroughs. Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees are uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. Visit nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected: https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem/ or Twitter @NYCHealthSystem.

About NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler

NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler is one of the finest long-term care facilities in the country, with capacity to serve 815 residents, and known for its interdepartmental Memory Care Program. Coler offers rehabilitation, medical treatment or skilled nursing care, providing the very best of care to meet individual needs. Coler offers a myriad of services designed to psycho-social, medical, and therapeutic needs. This holistic approach is achieved in a person-centered environment that aims to enhance socialization, foster independence, and honors individual preferences. The facility is easily accessible by car, subway or tram. It is situated at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island, with views of Manhattan and Queens, and is adjacent to Lighthouse Park.