Music and Memory

Some Texas nursing homes have begun using individualized music playlists with patients who have Alzheimer's and other memory disorders to try to reduce the use of antipsychotic medication.

In 2015 Texas Health and Human Services selected 32 nursing homes to participate in the Music & Memory program. The goal is to help residents reconnect with the world through specific, music-triggered memories. Family members and nursing home staff will create personal playlists for use on digital music players, such as iPods.

John Jay High School, Northside Independent School District is the winner of the 2016 Essay contest. This video demonstrates students learning while supporting the efforts of Music and Memory.

Dan Cohen, who founded Music & Memory, believes that musical favorites tap "deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring residents and clients back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again — to converse, socialize and stay present." Learn more about how to start a Music & Memory program in your facility (PDF).

About Music & Memory

A documentary about Cohen's work, Alive Inside, won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Clips from the film are available on YouTube and demonstrate the impact a personalized music playlist can have on someone with Alzheimer's or another cognitive impairment.

Cohen's ongoing research has shown:

  • Residents are happier and more social.
  • Relationships among staff, residents and family deepen.
  • Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.
  • Staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.

There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.

Music & Memory PSA – Kenny Chesney (video)

Music & Memory PSA – Carole King (video)

Music & Memory Participants

List of facilities selected to participate in the Music & Memory Program (PDF).

Funding for the Project

HHS is using existing Civil Monetary Penalty funds to certify nursing homes to participate in the program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved the pilot.

Participating facilities agree to:

  • Have a minimum of 15 residents participate.
  • Expand the initiative in its own facilities.
  • Participate in monthly educational webinars.
  • Share data with HHS, including:
    • the percentage of residents receiving anti-psychotic medication pre- and post-program, and
    • progress made toward the goals, including reductions in anti-psychotic medication usage, decreased falls, and improvements or declines in other CMS quality measures.

Looking For Volunteers to Help With Your Program?

Let future health professionals lend a hand. Two student organizations – Health Occupations of America and Texas Student Nurses Association – have members around the state looking to support your efforts.

Health Occupations of America (HOSA)

HHS is partnering with HOSA to help expand the reach of Music & Memory. HOSA is an organization of high school students who are preparing to enter health care professions. Some of the ways they can provide assistance include:

  • Adopting a nursing home and developing personalized playlists for residents and load the music onto iPods
  • Creating an iTunes library for the facility
  • Raising community awareness to identify sponsors
  • Hosting a screening of the documentary "Alive Inside"
  • Coordinating a donation drive to collect iPods, iTunes gift cards or headphones
  • Raising funds to help nursing homes become certified Music & Memory facilities, and then working with the nursing homes to develop the program

HOSA chapters across the state are being encouraged to contact nursing homes in their area to discuss how they can help implement Music & Memory. If you don't hear from a chapter, but want to have student volunteers, you can call your local high school and ask to speak with a HOSA Chapter Advisor.

Watch a group of HOSA students as they interact with residents in a Texas nursing facility, implementing the Music and Memory program.

Learn More about HOSA

Texas Student Nurses’ Association (TSNA)

The Texas Student Nurses’ Association promotes professionalism and leadership among student nurses across the state. The membership is more than 3,000 strong.

In the fall of 2015, TNSA students from Lamar University in Beaumont, under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Long, collaborated with a local nursing home to implement Music & Memory in the facility. Watch this video to learn more about Lamar University’s experience with Music & Memory.

TNSA’s 2016-2017 statewide project is Dementia: Recalling Memories Through Music. For more information about the project, visit the TNSA website. You can find contact information for local TNSA chapters here.

For more information or for assistance in recruiting volunteers for your facility’s Music & Memory program, email

Music & Memory In the News

Music & Memory Community Resources

Want to Learn More?

This video of HOSA volunteers shows how one facility in Wisconsin has successfully implemented the Music & Memory program.

For more information about the Music & Memory pilot, email the HHS Quality Monitoring Program.