Personalized and therapeutic music floods the hearts and lifts the spirits of veterans residing at the new Geri-Psych 10-bed ward at Fort Bayard State Veterans Home with the help of a $1,200 grant from the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation and an additional $300 from the American Legion Auxiliary Department of New Mexico. The unit opened in February 2016.

As the recreation therapist for the Geri-Psych unit, Nan Gile, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist shared, “I am able to create and manage customized playlists for each patient, incorporating input from the veterans and their loved ones, which will then be downloaded and delivered via MP3 player/iPods following all VA and the Office of Mental Health Operations’ safety guidelines.”

Music and Memory is a new program initiative for the New Mexico VA Health Care System’s Geri-Psych veterans. Gile shared, “Music has been demonstrated to improve the quality of life and generate a variety of therapeutic outcomes. Currently, musical interventions offered to in-patients are time-limited, in a group format, and are not person specific. Research has shown personalized music increases the benefits of music for patients regardless of cognitive, physical, or social situation in many ways.”

“When Nan brought forth this project, I knew it was a great project and was proud to bring it to the attention of our Foundation,” said Mary Lou Lopez, the American Legion Auxiliary’s Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service representative for the Department of New Mexico. “We all recognize how the arts and music has proven to help our veterans.”