Intuitive Musical Books Accompany Alzheimer’s Patients’ Memories

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you know how difficult it can be to hold a conversation with them that doesn’t constantly go in circles. A good way to keep them focused is to use conversation pieces like pictures and familiar objects from their past. Something particularly poignant might uncork a flood of memories.

Adding familiar music to these images can be doubly beneficial. [Annelle] found this out when she showed her mother a musical children’s book that plays nursery rhymes. Her mother’s face lit up with joy when she heard those well-known tunes, and her reaction inspired [Annelle] to explore the idea.  After a fruitless search for more mature musical books, [Annelle] and her husband [Mike] got to work making their own using hymns, spirituals, and pictures from [Annelle]’s travels with her mother.

Alzheimer’s is a pretty tough test for intuitive interfaces. Because of this, [Annelle] and [Mike] designed around the constraints of buttons and switches. Instead, the book uses light-dependent resistors mounted inside the back cover, and an increasing number of holes in each page. These photo cells are all wired to an Adafruit sound board, which figures out the active page based on the input voltage and plays the corresponding song.

Tilt switches inside the 3D-printed enclosure negate the need for a power button. The book is turned off when lying flat on a table, but it’s ready to rock in any other position. Turn past the break for an overview video and another that covers the page detection scheme.

10 thoughts on “Intuitive Musical Books Accompany Alzheimer’s Patients’ Memories

  1. I know I’m not speaking for everyone. I am 60 and at that age the list of things you have that might kill you can start getting substantial. If I have dementia and my _self_ is dying, but my body not as quickly, I hope I am given the opportunity to choose a dignified and comfortable end of life. The law puts too many barriers in front of such a thing, even where physician assistance is purportedly legal.

    1. The law is there for a reason. So someone cannot be exploited out of their most precious – life. I am not advocating, just saying that everyday there are close to a hundred person ended their life, without the assistant of physicians. The cases which I read from media which someone travel far to have their life terminated are all capable of ending their own life. Again, I’m not advocating anything here. Just trying to state the fact.

    2. One of the horror stories I’ve heard, happening in countries that have legalized assisted end of life services, is that now both the government and medical insurance systems have adapted to “encourage” that as the “best” option. When the entire set of systems put in place to help the elderly in this country have changed, it was anticipated that the equivalent of Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security programs would have enforced end dates. “You don’t actually need services, you may not like your life without your medications and without a nurse to help take care of you, but you can always choose to die instead. It will save the taxpayers money.” Insurance companies deny coverage for life-saving treatments because “this alternative treatment is cheaper”.

      I had to go log in to a blog I don’t use from here, and find the post from 2016, in hopes that there was a link to an article and not just the original author’s assertion of fact. Luckily, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2491354 has the article that was being discussed. No, I don’t (still) have a link to the paper that isn’t behind a paywall. I recall that it wasn’t too difficult to find; if it is not simple to find nowadays then I would suggest emailing one (or all) of the authors and asking if they would send you a copy.

    3. I don’t mean to be rude, but I think it’s kind of inappropriate that you hijacked this topic to start a political/philosophical discussion.

      I think this is an awesome project and it has the potential to help a lot of people, especially because it’s do-able for hobbyists. Wonderful idea.

      1. Some things are too close to people’s hearts not to talk about. Expecting to talk about Alzheimer without this? That’s like an article about 3d (or other homemade) guns without a gun control discussion or an article about the technical developments of vat-grown meat without a debate on the ethics of meat eating vs vegetarianism. You are asking too much.

    4. I hope to see doctor assisted suicide legalized by the time I need it too. But.. that’s not enough. Naturally one needs to be ‘with it’ enough to legally request the procedure. I get that. It’s not a decision I would want anyone else making for (or against) me either! But… unless I am in a tremendous amount of pain I want to live until I’m not really there anymore. But.. having been there when my father’s mind left…* not a second longer! At that point however it is too late to legally consent!

      I want to be able to create a living will while I am still of sound mind that says my life ends once I am not.

      * – do not take this to mean I would have wanted my father to go. That would have been HIS decision to make and mine to respect either way.

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