Something transcendent happens when you’re wrapped in the beautiful waves of sound. Henry Dryer may know this better than anyone. Dryer, a nursing home resident of over ten years and a sufferer of dementia, was 92 years old when he was introduced to this groundbreaking therapy at Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Dryer suffers from such severe dementia that he doesn’t even recognize his daughter when she comes to visit him. Over the years, those close to Dryer have had to endure the pain of watching him deteriorate under the power of dementia. Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks describes Dryer as “inert,” “unresponsive,” and “unalive.”
While Dr. Sacks’ description may be troubling to hear, it is accurate not only in describing Dryer, but also millions of others who suffer from dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia), and one out of every three seniors die with some form of dementia.
To help combat this condition, Dr. Sacks partnered with Cobble Hill’s recreation therapist Yvonne Russell to introduce music therapy into Dryer’s treatment. After adding music back into his life, they witnessed Dryer’s rigid, unresponsive figure loosen and become more enlivened. Footage of the study shows how drastically Dyer’s demeanor changes after listening to music even just for a few moments. He not only shuffles his feet, and waves his arms around, but also starts responding to questions.
Since this video was uploaded in 2012, it has garnered over 10 million views and a massive amount of support and interest for Dryer and the benefits of music therapy. In light of this success, a documentary called Alive Inside was created, featuring Dryer’s story alongside other cases in which the condition of Alzheimer’s patients was improved via music.
Music therapy is currently used at facilities across the U.S. Nonprofit organization Music & Memory has been one of the leading players in implementing music therapy in rehabilitation centers. Music & Memory founder and former social worker Dan Cohen strongly believes in music’s ability to ignite the spirit of Alzheimer’s patients in ways nothing else can. Cohen tells Medscape Medical News, “This is not a cure, but we are increasing patients’ level of engagement.”
Watch the extraordinary transformation and share your thoughts with us.