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Music helping to bring memories back

Vera music app available at Balmain Hospital for patients with dementia.

 

Older woman and doctor looking at a hand held device
SydneyConnect image: Patients at Balmain Hospital enjoying Vera

A new music streaming app for patients with dementia has been launched at Balmain Hospital.

The Vera app is an intervention tool available for patients, carers and staff at the hospital to trigger memory retention, alleviate the burden of care, and potentially lead to increased physical activity. 

Andrea Alano, Nutrition and Dietetics Manager at Balmain won the initial funding of $9,240 to initiate a relationship with the app's developers through the Pitch, the District's innovation challenge. 

"It's very rewarding and nice to see that the idea has become a reality," Andrea said. 

"I'm looking forward to seeing how it affects the patients and how we can improve their lives."

Her Pitch, "Don't blame it on the boogie", presented Vera as an opportunity to create more meaningful behaviours and reduce the psychological symptoms associated with dementia. 

"For dietetics and nutrition, if they're calmer, they will eat more," Andrea said. 

Music therapy using Vera provides personally significant and patient-centred songs, making it more meaningful and effective.

"But how do you find the right songs when people can't remember?" said Steve Hunt, co-founder and co-CEO of Music Health, the company behind Vera. 

"We take basic information, such as what year they were born in, where they were living during the 15-30 years old and what their first language is, then we look at popular songs around that person and place. 

"We look at radio plays, tours, and technical information and filter by your favourite genres and who you're most likely to recognise."

Clayton Frater, Senior ICT Project Manager with the District's Digital Health and Innovation team, helped to deliver the product.

He is excited about the potential opportunities the app will bring to care in the District and says its application is unlimited.

"For example, we can use the app for group sessions, and it can be tailored by combining profiles," he said

"We discuss the best option with clients and target the carers, not just patients. It's all a new learning curve, and we provide feedback to the Vera team."

Patients, carers and staff were invited to enjoy morning tea in the hospital for the app's launch to hear about from Clayton and the Vera team and experience 'Vera moments' for themselves.