Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Presently, there is no cure and the disease worsens as it progresses. As research into medications and a possible cure continues, community activist and Nazareth donor Sheila Konar was galvanized to support Alzheimer’s research for a personal reason: about 10 years ago, her husband was diagnosed with the disease.
“The benefits of music therapy on mental health are astounding and well documented,” says Konar. Knowing this, she and the other members of the Konar Family Foundation were interested to learn that Nazareth professors wished to study the effectiveness of individually tailored small group music therapy sessions for those living with Alzheimer’s. “At the foundation, we have always been interested in this field as well as in giving back to the community. Nazareth, meanwhile, has always been socially minded and involved in community service.”
A generous gift from the foundation allowed Nazareth professors to begin research in fall 2011 and to create a music therapy group for persons with Alzheimer’s. Research was compiled throughout the fall and spring semesters, and the preliminary results and analysis indicated significant improvement for persons with Alzheimer’s who participated in the group.
The group’s successes are poignant considering the sessions were nearly prevented for lack of a suitable campus location. “In order to continue giving our students real-world experience—while also doing outreach, community support, and research—we need proper clinic space,” says Associate Professor of Music Therapy Betsey King, Ph.D., LCAT, MT-BC.
Konar supports King’s stance, and the former insists that her work with Nazareth’s music therapy program is not over. “We are determined to secure an appropriate clinic space so they can keep doing the amazing work they do every day for the community.”