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Saint Mary’s Social Work Club hosts screening of Alive Inside

| Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Saint Mary’s Social Work Club with sponsorship from the Student Government Association, will screen the film, Alive Inside, Thursday, March 5 from 7-9 p.m. in Vander Vennet Theater. The film documents the effect of music on the brains of those suffering from various forms of Dementia — primarily Alzheimers. The mission is to raise awareness and to strengthen support on campus for the Music and Memory program at Healthwin Specialized Care Facility. In conjunction with the Social Work Club, Saint Mary’s junior social work majors are also heavily involved in this program. 

According to junior and President of the Social Work Club Bri O’Brien, each junior social work student is paired with a resident and then the pairs work together to figure out the resident’s music preferences and needs.

“Working with persons who suffer from varying forms of dementia has been challenging, but there is always something new to learn about our residents, ourselves, how to effectively and authentically communicate with our resident partners, and how to adapt to changing, complex circumstances,” O’Brien said. “I think for many students it was intimidating at first to meet with our residents. Growing old, falling ill and dying are all life events that many are fearful of — especially the young, much like ourselves.”

O’Brien said the neurological effects of music are apparent in cognitive-behavioral changes of patients she has worked with in person.

“Often times, when we enjoy listening to a song, we also attach certain feelings, memories and thoughts to that song,” O’Brien said. “When I played Mozart for my resident, she became much more communicative regarding her family and how she used to play the piano”

Music’s utility in work with Alzheimer’s patients transcends the external self, O’Brien said.

“Furthermore, the program is not designed to only trigger memory recollection, but to also improve the overall well-being of the residents and allow them to express themselves through music,” O’Brien said.

Music helps spiritual health as well, junior social work major Ashley Watkins said.

“My resident likes spiritual music, I’ve made a list of songs she likes and what she responds to,” Watkins said. “This program is important to me personally because I had a grandmother who had dementia and I really just wanted to learn more about the disease — spending time with them and making the end of their life the most memorable.”

O’Brien said the screening of Alive Inside intends to inspire students to become passionate and conscious about the subject. The Social Work Club is holding a donation to help the Music and Memory program by collecting iTunes giftcards, used or new iPods, CDs and new headphones. Monetary donations are also being accepted. The goal of the donation is to allow for each resident to have their own personal iPod, stocked with their favorite memory and response stimulating songs.

According to O’Brien, engagement in the Healthwin community has been a very rewarding experience to all who have worked with their resident for numerous reasons. O’Brien said part of her and her classmates fulfillment comes from working with a very diverse population which allows for an acquirement of new perspectives on life and knowledge of how to work with those different than oneself.

“If we do not get out of our SMC bubble, how can we possibly learn about the diversity all around us? We see the world through the lens of our youth,” O’Brien said. “When we engage with the residents of Healthwin, we are privileged to listen to a perspective of the world unlike any we have every experienced ourselves.”

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