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Vasey Brighton East (VIC)

Hawthorn Road, Brighton East VIC

Memories Through Music 

Residential - Metropolitan - 80 beds/Consumers or more

Award descriptors

  • Dementia care
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Social participation and lifestyle

Establishing the Memories through Music program, a person-centred approach with benefits including a calmer, more supportive environment and improved family and community engagement.

About this program

 Our organisation target mission is veterans and war widows, a special needs group (Aged Care Act, 1997). Studies over the last decade have explored the possible link between exposure to severe and prolonged trauma such as combat experience and the increased risk of cognitive decline including dementia (Yaffe et al, 2010; Morris, 2012; Greenberg et al, 2014).  In our Memory Support Unit (MSU), 50% of care recipients are veterans or war widows and all have a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or dementia. These care recipients experience a range of symptoms, including complex behavioural issues associated with dementia. These symptoms can be distressing and have a significant impact on quality of life for the person living with dementia.
We are committed to providing a person-centred approach to care. An important part of that commitment involves providing a physical and psychosocial environment that identifies and supports each individual’s sensory needs and preferences.  The 2014 US documentary ‘Alive Inside’ was the catalyst for introducing a program of personalized music for care recipients. The film details how social worker Dan Cohen developed a program to provide people living with dementia in residential aged care facilities with their favourite music on portable listening devices. The testimony of the people featured in the film, reinforced by the opinions of experts in aged care, music therapy and neuro-scientific fields offered a powerful example we felt could be adapted to the special needs of our ex-service care recipient community. 

The project involved educating staff and family members about the concept of a personalised playlist and its potential benefits. A fundraising initiative then successfully sourced the funds and equipment necessary to develop a pilot program with a small group of care recipients. A new ‘Music Profile’ form was developed that captured previously undocumented information about the musical history and preferences of the pilot program participants then used to compile a personalised playlist of favourite songs and music choices.

Family members, staff, volunteers and visiting student groups were involved in compiling the personalised playlists and setting up and maintaining the equipment.  Pilot participants were then provided with their playlists on personal listening devices.  For those participants who disliked the feel of head phones, compact discs were compiled and portable speakers provided.  Intervention times for personal playlists varied depending on the individual and included daytime implementation to reduce distress during hygiene care to late afternoon or evening to mitigate boredom, restlessness or agitation. Qualitative, observational data about the efficacy of the intervention was collected by staff and documented in progress notes in addition to anecdotal feedback from care recipients, staff and family members.  This data was incorporated into care plans, contributing to a genuinely individualised, person-centred approach to care for care recipients.

The project was also conceived as part of a broader program over the last 15 months focussing on sensory enrichment in our MSU and aimed at enhancing quality of life for our care recipients. The additional, complementary therapeutic interventions that comprise this broader program include aroma/tactile/olfactory/light and other therapies.

More information about this program

 Janna Voloshin at or call 0400 213 261

Friday, 21 December 2018 - 6:38am