Coping with a loved one living with dementia is extremely difficult. One day, they seem lucid and fine, the next, they don’t know who you are. Often, small things can trigger memories for them. And sometimes the memories are pleasant while other times the memories are not. But music has the power to transform the day in the life of someone with dementia.
Finding The Right Music
We all have certain styles of music that moves us and causes emotion. Often it is tied to something in our past. Music had the ability to transport us back in time, evoke memories of happy times and take us to happy places in our minds. Singing along is something people of all ages enjoy doing. The more you know about someone the better you will be able to choose the music that moves them.
Music as Therapy
Using music as therapy is nothing new. Because we have such an emotional attachment to music and how it moves us makes it a very powerful and useful tool.
It has been used for individuals and in groups and studies have shown that even after a few minutes of hearing familiar music, patients with dementia saw a noticeable increase with their level of happiness, were making more eye contact and became more talkative and aware of their surrounding.
Music accompanies other types of therapy, so why not people with dementia? Because dementia affects different parts of the brain, some people may lose certain functions over others.
For instance, singing and talking come from different parts of the brain, therefore it’s not surprising for a person living with dementia to lose the ability to talk, but not to sing.
Use Music Therapy Early and Often
Many people have music playing in their homes all the time. If you are caring for someone with dementia, even starting music therapy in the very early stages is extremely beneficial.
Perhaps you could play the oldies station or their favorite CDs throughout the day. Nothing takes us back like music, to high school, to our wedding, to summer holidays. Even when people don’t respond verbally, they still respond positively.
Starting early with music means you can ask them about the music they like, their favorites and why. That way, you can start playing it early on and they will get used to hearing it and maybe even start building new memories.
In the more advanced stages of dementia, music can also help them stay motivated with movement, yoga, and other exercises. It also may cause a bit of frustration, as they may struggle to recognize the music or artists.
It is also a good idea to make the music mobile and let them listen for long walks, trips in the car or waiting in a doctor’s office. It can be a nice distraction from other annoyances and very soothing if they are upset about no longer being able to recognize where they are.
Even in advanced stages of dementia, music can act as a much-needed stress reliever. It has shown to help people relax which can also lead to them sleeping better.
The Magic of Music Therapy
When we hear a familiar or a favorite song, it triggers a pleasant signal in the brain called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Studies conducted by scientists used MRIs to specifically analyze exactly where the response occurs found that those areas of the brain are not affected by the disease.
This means that music can access parts of the brain that are still healthy and functioning, and activating emotions and past memories. This is most pleasing to people living with dementia.
When we listen to music it triggers both sides of the brain. We listen on the right side and sing on the left. Studies have proven that patients tested after listening to music show an increased ability to think.
Benefits of Music Therapy
Besides evoking pleasant memories and recall, there are other benefits of using music therapy.
First, it’s a non-pharmacological method of therapy. Medication usually has the opposite effect of what we want from our loved ones.
It can help people communicate better, with their carer, their therapists, within a group setting and with the family.
You can also encourage the patient to make their own playlist. This can be very beneficial in engaging other skills. Whether you are downloading music, making tapes burning CDs, the patient has a part to play. It can give them a great sense of accomplishment.
It can also have an amazing effect on a person’s mood. Music is a powerful mood-lifter for almost anyone. It can soothe a person who may be upset due to confusion or frustration.
It gives people a chance to interact, move to the music and feel better about themselves and their surroundings.
The Power of Music
Everyone relates to music. It gives us a nice feeling, brings back memories and invites new ones. Using music for dementia patients at all stages of the disease is a great way to soothe them and keep their minds alert.
It’s also just pleasant to have music playing. It’s calming, soothing and familiar. It’s also comforting to hear something both loved and personal when all around you seems like chaos.
Caring for someone with dementia is not easy. It can weigh heavily on your heart. Allowing someone else to take over the daily care routine will allow you to be the spouse, daughter, son or grandchild again. Come for a tour at Sycamore Creek Ranch! See how we can help!