Music: A Treatment for Alzheimer’s

Music has a way of bringing us back to a certain moment in time, evoking memories, emotions and feelings from our past. Listening to certain songs can bring comfort in times of sadness, boost your mood, and just make you feel more positive and happy overall. For those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, thanks to many recent studies, the power of music is more evident than ever.

This is due to the fact that listening to music takes little to no cognitive processing. Even in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a person can still engage in familiar music, particularly in rhythmic playing or singing.

Music therapy was defined by the Older Americans Act in 1992 as “the use of musical or rhythmic interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to accomplish the restoration, maintenance, or improvement of social or emotional functioning, mental processing, or physical health of an older individual.”

Why Music is Beneficial to Those With Alzheimer’s Disease

As an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s, music therapy has been shown to not only reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues during the mid-to-late stages of dementia, but also provides a way to connect with these loved ones even after verbal communication has become difficult.

Music therapists have reported remarkable results when working with those with Alzheimer’s. Hearing a personal favorite song allows some of these individuals to remember names of loved ones or their own names, become more social and engaged in their surroundings, and even start to speak again. Some of the main benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer’s include an impact on:

  • Cognitive skills: Since many people associate music with past events, sometimes hearing a song can evoke a memory years and years after an event has taken place. In dementia patients, music from their childhood or young adult years has proven to be effective in obtaining a positive response and involvement, even when the patient can no longer communicate. Music can also help those with Alzheimer’s process their thoughts and maintain more memories.
  • Speech skills: Studies have shown that even when an Alzheimer’s patient loses the ability to speak, they can still recognize and even hum or sing their favorite song. Music therapy has been proven to help those with Alzheimer’s answer questions, make decisions, and speak more clearly, plus, it can help slow the deterioration of speech and language skills in dementia patients.
  • Physical Skills: With music comes dancing, after all, and dancing promotes coordination and helps with walking and endurance. Even for those with Alzheimer’s who are not mobile, music can inspire toe tapping and clapping, thus getting the blood flowing once again.
  • Social Skills: Increased social interaction with caregivers and others is another great benefit of music therapy for Alzheimer’s. It encourages bonding with others, which in turn can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.
  • Stress Reduction: Playing music dementia sufferers enjoy can help them relax and ease the aggressive behaviors they may display. Slow songs like ballads and lullabies can help prepare individuals for bed or deal with changes to their routines that may cause agitation.

Coping with Alzheimer’s – A 3-Part Lecture Series for Caregivers

If you or someone you know is affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, join Concordia in September for our Coping with Alzheimer’s Lecture Series. Presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, this three-part series will provide basic information about Alzheimer’s disease like risk factors, stages of the disease and treatment options, how to understand and respond to dementia-related behaviors, and legal and financial planning information.

Thanks to donations from residents and families, as well as a $2,500 grant from the Walmart Foundation, Concordia is able to include a Music and Memory program for our residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Based on research from the Music & Memory program, our activities coordinators work with both residents and their families to create a personalized music playlist based on each resident’s music preferences. These songs are downloaded to an iPod given to the resident, along with their own set of headphones to help bring these residents back to life, enabling them to communicate and stay present in the moment.

Contact Concordia to learn more about our unique memory care program, designed to promote confidence and enhance the lives of our residents and their families.

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