How Music Can Help People with Alzheimer’s
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most reputable sources of information on medical topics, music and singing provide significant benefits to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Scientists have rigorously researched the concept and concluded that musical memories are well preserved in people with Alzheimer’s because the “key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.”
Studies showed that participation in group singing or providing access to playing musical instruments has a three-fold effect: it reduces patient stress; relieves anxiety and depression and there is also a noticeable decrease in the agitated behaviour that patients with Alzheimer’s frequently display. Music can also provide carers with a new way of connecting with a person who is struggling to communicate and lessen the frustration felt by family members and the person they are caring for when it seems that there is an insuperable barrier between them.
Care for Me’s professional nurses are trained to provide specialist Alzheimer’s and dementia care and this includes keeping up to date with the latest research in innovative care techniques and have adopted this recommended musical therapeutic approach. Of course, this is a therapy that family members can also introduce and we’ve put together some pointers about ways to use music in this way based on expert clinical advice.
- Consider the Patient’s Musical Preferences
What music have they always enjoyed and are there any particular songs that evoke happy memories in the person’s life? You could ask friends to help you make a playlist.
- Use Music to Create a Mood
Play calming, soothing music at times when you want the patient to remain calm, for example at meal times. Similarly, if the person seems to be a bit low then some upbeat music with a lively tempo is good for raising spirits.
- Avoid Overstimulation
When you’re having a musical session with a patient, try to remove all other forms of noise. Turn off the TV, shut out external noises by closing doors and windows, and keep the volume level at an adequate level for the person’s hearing. Music that is too loud is likely to agitate the person and too many sounds at one time causes confusion.
- Get Dancing & Singing
Encouraging the patient to move to the music is an excellent way of communicating with them. Clapping and tapping the feet as well as a gentle dance are all recommended as ways of reinforcing the power of music. Singing along to the songs is also helpful and is said to stimulate specific memories.
- Watch their Response
If the person seems particularly drawn to one particular song or piece of music, it is beneficial to play these often. Also, keep an eye out for music that creates a negative reaction and turn it off.
Music has the power to bring about sudden recollections of the past in Alzheimer’s patients and it has been shown to boost brain activity. Music may not be a cure for this condition, but it can improve patients’ quality of life and relationships with loved ones, and that is a gift we must be thankful for.