2017 Semifinalist
State of Wisconsin
January 1, 2017

In an effort to improve the care of residents with dementia and decrease the use of harmful medications, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) used creative funding to bring personalized music to thousands of people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and their homes. Since 2011 and for the next 20 years, 10,000 US citizens will turn 65 every day. It is estimated that one out of seven patients aged 65 and older, one out of four patients aged 75 and older, and one out of two patients 85 and older will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. One of every four residents with dementia living in nursing homes is taking harmful medications. This equates to a tremendous strain on our health systems. In 2013, DHS, motivated by a video in which a patient with profound dementia showed a remarkable improvement in communication, joy, and memory following exposure to the music he loved from his past, contacted the company Music & Memory and offered a creative funding source to train and support staff and equip residents in 100 nursing homes. Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to recognize personalized music’s potential for improving quality of life for nursing home elders. Not only did DHS staff build on their initial success to rapidly expand the program, which today includes approximately 400 certified facilities and agencies including assisted living, but also, they shared what they learned with other states. Wisconsin’s proactive collaboration has helped launch Music & Memory in 15 other states, with more lining up. Because of this program, tens of thousands of elders with dementia have reconnected with those around them through the power of personalized music.