How many times have you heard a song and gotten a strange sense of déjà vu? With even just a few notes played, you can remember things you have since forgotten or even remember what you were doing at the second you first heard a specific song. Music has the power to make you remember things and take you back in time, which is why music therapy is one of the best things that you can use to help your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia feel more like themselves. For loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, music may be one of the only ways that they have to connect to the world that they once knew.
“Loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can potentially benefit from music as therapy, as well, no matter where they are in their journey. Music may be one of the only ways that they can communicate what they are thinking or how they are feeling and it’s important for them to be able to do so,” says Sue Sunderland, Executive Director at The Bridges at Warwick, a senior living community in Jamison, PA. “Because music is known to provide many forms of connection – especially emotional and physical – it is in you and your loved one’s best interest to take advantage of it. Music therapy can allow your loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia to have a holistic outlet for agitation, mood enhancement and cognitive stimulation, which can make your days as a caregiver easier and your loved one’s days brighter and help them to be more lucid.”
According to an article titled Why Music Boosts Brain Activity by Alzheimers.net, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia can greatly benefit from the introduction of music therapy, so much so that caregivers should be encouraged. Below are some of the many ways that music therapy can prove beneficial to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Music Therapy’s Power to Benefit Loved Ones with Memory Loss
- Musical abilities last longer. According to the article, musical aptitude and appreciation tend to be the last remaining abilities in those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This means that music therapy can be used to reach your loved one in ways that words can’t.
- Emotional and physical closeness. As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, it can become harder for our loved ones to share their emotions. We have often heard people say, “Where words fail, music speaks” and those with memory loss are no exception.
- Engagement is increased. Singing activates the left side of the brain and listening to music evokes activity in the right side, according to the article. When loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia watch music being played, it makes the visual parts of their brain more active. Because of the brain being so engaged, it is no wonder music therapy is so highly regarded.
- Music is the perfect outlet for those with Alzheimer's or dementia because it can help to shift feelings from negative to positive, reduce stress and create positive interactions. Because music requires less mental processing, it makes it the perfect activity for someone who is suffering from reduced cognitive functioning to remain engaged and stimulated.
“Because music therapy is about engaging the mind and body, it may be helpful to find ways to incorporate music therapy into daily life and routines,” Sue says. “You can do this in a variety of ways and you may even come to notice that the slightest changes make the biggest differences in your loved one.”
Ideas for Incorporating Music Therapy in Your Routine
- Attend a concert. In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it may be nice for your loved one to be taken out to a concert or show. Hearing the music can help them to feel much more like themselves and it can also drastically boost their mood.
- Play music during exercise. Even if your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t want to exercise, put the music on anyway as this can encourage them to dance. Then, not only do they get the benefit of the music therapy, but they get the benefit of exercise as well. If you play the same kind of music or find they want to dance to certain kinds, keep note of this as this can become a large part of your daily routine.
- Play the right music for the time of day. If you are trying to keep your loved one up and active, you will need to play music with a beat that will help to stimulate them. Refrain from playing this type of music before bed, however, because it could just cause them to be more awake. As it gets closer to bedtime, begin to play quiet music that is calm and soothing. This will promote sleep and relaxation.
- Listen to music while reminiscing. If you and your loved one enjoy looking at photo albums of the past or like to talk about previous memories, try using music therapy simultaneously. You will want music to be soft and light, so as to not overstimulate your loved one, but to complement the memories. Try keeping a note of what music goes with that particular time period, as it can spur some memories they had forgotten about until they heard the music.
“At The Bridges at Warwick, we pride ourselves in celebrating life,” says Sue. “Those who live in our Vista Transitional Living Program and The Vista, our supportive care and memory care communities, have access to a wide array of artistic offerings and creative outlets that can help them to remember who they once were and help them to be the best that they can be now. Our team of highly experienced professionals ensure that our activities reflect the interests and abilities of each of our residents while personalizing the experience to make your loved one relate. Because each person is unique, so is our offering of clubs and activities and best yet, families are more than welcome to join in the fun. Visit us today to learn more.”
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
Now open, you’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where every day is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program is for our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our specialized, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.