For Dementia Patients, Music is Therapy

If you care for a loved one with dementia, you’re already familiar with the challenges they face: confusion, difficulty communicating, and difficulty with coordination, to name a few. Memory loss plays a role in all of these cognitive changes. However, through all of these changes, you may have noticed one thing remains the same: a love of familiar music. Your loved one may perk up or suddenly more become more lucid upon hearing one of their favorite songs from adolescence.

Why is music the exception? It has to do with the brain: memories associated with music are not affected by dementia to the same degree as other areas of the brain that control speech, comprehension, and coordination. A study published in the Journal of Music Therapy demonstrated that playing familiar background music helped to increase positive social behaviors in people with Alzheimer’s and decrease negative behaviors related to agitation. Music has also been proven to drastically decrease anxiety and depression in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Even when the usual means of communication become inhibited by the effects of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, those experiencing memory loss still remember and respond to “their” music.

You can leverage the power of music in a number of different ways to lift your loved one’s spirits and unlock memories from long ago. One way is to create a “life soundtrack” that includes memorable songs from their childhood, teenage and young adult years. Research the top hits from each decade of their life, find out what songs were played at their wedding, and pick out some well-loved hymns or carols. If they used to play a musical instrument, include music featuring that instrument as well. One morning, try waking up your loved one with their favorite song. You may find that they start the day in a great mood.

Music can be therapeutic not only for the person living with dementia, but for you as well! Our team can help you identify the little-but-mighty things like music that will make a positive difference in both of your lives.

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