"Alive Inside" documentary screening


BENNINGTON >> Frank Sinatra. Barbara Streisand. The Beatles. The Beach Boys. Puccini. For many, music is deeply moving. For some with severe dementia, it has transformative powers. On Jan. 17, Southwestern Vermont Health Care's Centers for Living and Rehabilitation (CLR) will host a screening of the moving documentary, "Alive Inside" from director Michael Rossato-Bennett, a film whose concepts have been successful at CLR.

The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and include the film and brunch. A presentation will follow the film in which staff will share experiences of music's affect among CLR patients. CLR Medical Director Julie Siblerstein, MD, will conduct a question-and-answer session highlighted by discussing the results of testing the concept with residents and their families.

The documentary film follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he demonstrates music's ability to combat memory loss and restore a sense of self. It chronicles the experiences of patients and their family members who have witnessed the effects of personalized music on their loved ones and offers interviews with experts, including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks. Inspirational and emotional, Alive Inside won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

"It's amazing to see what this small non-medical intervention can do. It creates a level of comfort and pleasure that these people do not get in other areas of their lives," said Julie Silberstein, MD, and medical director at CLR.

Silberstein continued, "Those who are unable to communicate verbally and who are isolated and lonely have very few ways of finding joy in their lives. But if you supply them with the music they loved when they were in their 20s and 30s, it triggers an awakening in the parts of their brains that had been dormant. In many cases those who had been non-verbal are able to speak. Those who are usually unresponsive, look up and smile and even move to the music."

The staff at CLR would like to bring the program to more residents. Currently they have 15 iPods available for residents to use. While they are looking for donations of additional new or used iPods, one of the more challenging pieces of broadening the program is the time it takes to interview residents' family members to learn what music may resonate with them.

"The selection of the music is so important. For each individual, only very specific songs will have the desired effect, and figuring out what songs to load on to the iPod takes a significant amount of time," said Silberstein.

Those interested in attending the screening or donating an iPod should contact Cynthia Ellison, CLR activities director, at 802-447-5477. For information about volunteering with the Alive Inside effort at SVHC, contact Susan Lewsey at (802) 440-6080.


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