Bay Area program asks for iPod donations to help Alzheimer's patients

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - A Bay Area program is helping patients with Alzheimer's through music.

Plenty of Bay Area residents have enormous power, probably sitting, gathering dust in a drawer, to help dementia and Alzheimer patients reconnect with reality - if only for a short while.

In Michael Rossato-Bennett's award winning documentary, "Alive Inside," we meet Henry, an elderly gentleman wracked by dementia. He’s isolated, alone, and lost in his own world.

Henry’s daughter says he’s far different than the man he was. "He was always, you know, fun loving, singing, every occasion. He used to walk us down the street, me and my brother and he'd stop and do 'Singing in the Rain.' He would have us jumping and swinging around poles."

Then came a modern day miracle as his senior center caretaker, who brought him an iPod and headphones said, "Let's try your music, OK? Then you tell me if it's too loud or not."

Then came the miracle - his face immediately lit up, his eyes opened wide, and he began to sing and tap his feet. 

It's a remarkable difference from the man who sat slumped and silent in his wheelchair. 

Yet, the miracle continues when he was asked questions including: "Do you like music?" Henry speaks, "Yeah, I'm crazy about music. You play beautiful music, beautiful sounds. I went to big dances and things Cab Calloway was my number one band guy I liked," says Henry.

Even with brains degraded or devastated by dementia and disease, music, buried deep in our souls can provide relief and rehabilitation - an awakening if you will.

"The emotional power of it surprised me. It kind of gave me goose bumps and made me feel real good to see that there was still a way to tap into those individuals and connect with them and pull them out of isolation," says Neurologist Dr. Catherine Madison, Medical Director of the Ray Dolby Brain Health Center at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.

The Music & Memory Project uses iPods to let those with dementia and Alzheimer's listen to the music of their era or anything else they might enjoy. "Music connects to so many different regions of the brain that it's hard to remove it," says Dr. Madison.

At least a fourth of CPMC's Alzheimer's and dementia patients have no money for an iPod used or new.

CPMC needs 500 used iPods, iPhones or iPads for those patients.

If you have a used one, send it to:

CPMC, Dolby Brain Health Center, 45 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. 

Wipe off your information or it will be done for you. Also check out the stirring, award winning documentary "Alive Inside."