Patients at The Nathaniel Witherell nursing and rehabilitation center will soon be humming familiar tunes, thanks to the owners of Greenwich Pharmacy, who have agreed to underwrite the cost of a therapeutic music program at the facility for the remainder of the year.
Program participants will be residents from the Witherell’s 38-bed Camelot Unit, which houses those most severely affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with ages ranging from 85 to 105. The participants will be guided by a licensed music therapist who will conduct one-hour sessions twice a week in an effort to promote feelings of acceptance among the population. Significant clinical evidence has shown that music therapy is especially beneficial to those with memory problems, allowing them to participate in music activities even while their levels of cognitive function deteriorate. The therapy has also been known to help participants learn new information successfully by presenting it in a musical format.
Employees of The Witherell said they have been aware of the benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer’s patients for some time but have been unsuccessful in finding funds to support the program. The tides turned, however, when Greenwich resident and longtime Witherell supporter Joe Kaliko decided he would “find a way to meet the need.”
Mr. Kaliko said he was in the midst of arranging for Gov. Dannel Malloy to visit The Witherell for a groundbreaking ceremony at the facility in January when he learned of the need for music program funding. Denied money for the program by a local organization several times, the facility eventually abandoned the idea altogether, despite the music organization’s offer of a highly discounted rate of about $13,500, Mr. Kaliko said.
In an attempt to find backing for the music program, Mr. Kaliko looked at a number of traditional donors, such as the United Way, but discovered that the process of approval for such funding could take months. His next approach involved asking local business owners with whom he often collaborates if they would be interested in undertaking the cost of the program. That’s where Dmitri and Susana Daniarov, owners of Greenwich Pharmacy, came in, he said.
The Daniarovs took on the project enthusiastically and without hesitation, Mr. Kaliko said.
“We can do that,” Mr. Daniarov said he told Mr. Kaliko. “It’s the right thing to do, giving these people the benefit of such a program, and the peace it will provide them. It is a wonderful opportunity for my wife and me to give back to Greenwich’s senior citizens,” he said.
In an interview with the Post, Mr. Daniarov added that funding music therapy was the right thing to do for Witherell residents in “that stage of life.” The program is a good cause, he said. “It’s going to leave people with memories.” If the timing is right, Mr. Daniarov said, he would help fund similar projects “without thinking twice,” and he has done so in the past for various local churches, synagogues and other community organizations.
According to Mr. Kaliko, the Daniarovs have already put funding in place for the music program, which is due to kick off any day now. The program’s music therapist will play both classical and popular music with piano accompaniment for participants. Popular older songs will be especially useful, Mr. Kaliko said, because they help to spark past memories conjured up by the tunes. Additionally, he said, the music performances are scheduled during “sun-downing” time, which is critical because it is the point in the day when many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients experience heightened anxiety and agitation.
Scott Neff, director of development at Witherell, added that music therapy has an overall “calming” effect on residents with dimentia and Alzeheimer’s disease, which increases their ability to perform basic daily tasks and allows them to get to sleep more easily come night time.
The Nathaniel Witherell board chairman, David Ormsby, thanked Greenwich Pharmacy and the Daniarovs for their generosity noting, “This is a wonderful example of the town’s long tradition of public/private partnerships. I am pleased to recognize Mr. and Mrs. Daniarov and Greenwich Pharmacy for partnering with us and agreeing to fund this program which directly benefits some 100 of our most vulnerable residents.”