Why Music is an Important Part of Dementia Therapy
Mike McClernonApr 18th, 2022
As a Senior Living Advisor and dementia specialist (Mike McClernon, 516-254-9481), families often ask me what types of Alzheimer's disease or dementia therapies are offered in Memory Care communities on Long Island. Memory Care uses many different types of therapies to help slow cognitive decline in their residents, such as art, word games, and even pets to stimulate brain activity and create a comfortable, soothing environment.
Another effective therapy for progressive cognitive diseases is music therapy. Music is a potent tool for affecting cognitive response and triggering associative memory. It happens to most of us when we hear an old song and are instantly transported to a time decades earlier, hearing the music in the family car or a store shopping with our parents.
In a recent study, researchers discovered that playing the right song can reconnect late-stage Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients with the "real" world.
The Alzheimer's Society also recognizes and promotes music therapy through their successful Music Project, which provides MP3 players loaded with personalized music to people living with dementia. The program leverages music's potential to assist memory, fuel physical and social activity, improve sleep, elevate mood, and enhance the person's overall well-being.
Why is music such a powerful tool in dementia therapy?
Music therapy is uniquely powerful because of the way our brains store memory. Research has shown the part of the brain that retains music memory is relatively unaffected by the onset of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Whether as part of therapy or listening for pleasure, music provides Memory Care residents with emotional and behavioral support, helping them have a great day, every day.
How Memory Care communities use music as therapy
Music therapy has been shown to be very effective in helping people with communicative difficulties, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients, who often can't express basic needs and desires. This can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and depression.
Here are a few ways that music helps Memory care residents:
- Hearing a song from one's past can restore long-forgotten memories and help restore identity
- Singing along with a favorite song helps enable dialogue, support communicative structure, and exercises impaired cognitive skills
- Music is also used as a redirection tool to set moods, reduce restlessness, and focus one's attention
What are the benefits of music therapy to people with dementia?
Memory Care staff use music to create a connection between the residents and the outside world. The benefits of music therapy are numerous, including:
- Positive changes in mood
- Improved memory
- Better mental acuity through recalling song lyrics and singing along
- More consistent emotional states
- Reliable form of engagement when other strategies don't work
- Promotes rhythmic, continuous movement (dancing, hand clapping, etc.) which supports physical rehabilitation
- Assist with socialization through group singing and dancing
- A sense of renewed control over their life
Music therapy is used to increase the levels of physical, mental, and emotional functioning in older adults, elevating the quality of life of people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Get involved with your loved one's music therapy
One of the best aspects of Memory Care is that families are encouraged to be involved with their loved one's care plan. When it comes to music therapy, you can help develop a music therapy strategy by creating a playlist that Memory Care staff can use.
You can create your playlist by sourcing out music from your loved one's young adulthood, generally between the ages of 18 and 25. You can also include favorite songs that will evoke recollections of happy times. Ask friends and family for their suggestions in case they're aware of a song that's not on your list.
Memory Care staff will use your list to set a particular mood by matching the right songs with a specific activity. For example, upbeat music might be used for activities that require alertness, such as bathing or dressing. Slower songs might be used to create quieter moments in the pre-bedtime hours. Staff may also take note of which songs your loved one enjoys more than others and play those most often.
Memory Care staff encourage families to visit their loved ones as often as possible. While you're there, you can participate in music therapy by singing and clapping along. Even if they can't fully express it, trust that your loved one treasures every second of your time together and appreciates your collaboration with Memory Care staff to help them thrive during their vintage years.
Find Assisted Living/Memory Care on Long Island
Memory Care communities are wonderful places for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia to get the support they need to be happy, fulfilled, and safe. When looking for the right community for your loved one on Long Island, contact Mike McClernon of Assisted Living Locators.
Mike has collaborated with hundreds of families just like yours to help find the most appropriate Memory Care Community for their older relatives. He will ensure that you have all the information you need to decide where your loved ones will thrive and be well-cared for during their vintage years.