How Music Therapy in Memory Care Helps People with Dementia
Brian SheridanNov 4th, 2022
Memory Care communities are purpose-built for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The residences, common areas, dining room, and décor are all geared for cognitive stimulation to help slow the progression of the condition.
Many different therapies are also used to help exercise the brain, such as art activities, word games, and even pet therapy to create a comfortable, soothing environment where residents can relax and thrive.
Another powerful technique for combating progressive cognitive diseases is music. Music is a very potent tool for stimulating mental responses and triggering associative memory. It happens to most of us when we hear an old song that immediately brings back memories of riding in the family car or hanging out with friends during our younger years.
The Alzheimer's Society recognizes music therapy and promotes its effectiveness through its innovative and successful Music Project. This initiative provides MP3 players preloaded with personalized music selections to people living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The program leverages music's potential to assist memory, fuel physical and social activity, elevate mood, improve sleep, and enhance the person's overall well-being.
In addition, researchers recently discovered that playing the right song can reconnect late-stage Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients with the "real" world.
With such positive results, it's little wonder that Memory Care facilities use music therapy as a regular part of the residents' daily routine. The science behind why it works is an indicator of music's unique ability to help people in cognitive decline.
Why is music such a powerful tool in dementia therapy?
The success of music therapy lies in the way our brains store memory. Researchers have found that the part of the brain that retains music memory is relatively unaffected by the onset of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. This means that music's power to stimulate brain activity is reasonably consistent during all stages of the disease.
Memory Care residents who listen to music for pleasure or as part of a therapy program enjoy extra emotional and behavioral support, bringing them unending hours of joy in engaging with their favorite songs.
How Memory Care communities use music for cognitive stimulation
Sometimes, Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients can't express basic needs and desires, resulting in feelings of isolation, frustration, and depression. Music therapy is very effective in helping people with communicative difficulties, allowing them to express themselves more easily.
Here are a few ways that music helps residents in Memory Care thrive:
- Singing along with a favorite song helps enable dialogue, supports the communicative structure, and exercises impaired cognitive skills
- Hearing a song from their past can help restore identity and bring back long-forgotten memories
- Music is also used as a redirection tool to set moods, reduce restlessness, and refocus one's attention
Does music therapy bring benefits to people with dementia?
When Memory Care staff use music to create a connection between the residents and the outside world, the benefits to the resident, their family, and staff are numerous and impactful:
- Improved memory
- Positive changes in mood
- More consistent emotional states
- Better mental acuity through recalling song lyrics and singing along
- Increased socialization through group singing and dancing
- Promotes rhythmic, continuous movement (dancing, hand clapping, etc.), which supports physical rehabilitation
- Reliable form of engagement when other strategies don't work
- 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 with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, which elevates their quality of life and overall well-being. Families have even told me they've noticed that the symptoms in their loved ones have slowed down since being placed into Memory Care and benefitted from the programs, including music therapy.
How can families be involved in music therapy?
Families are always encouraged to participate in every aspect of their loved one's Memory Care program, including music therapy. One of the most effective ways to be involved is to create a song playlist for use by Memory Care staff.
You can build your playlist by sourcing popular music during your loved one's young adulthood, generally between the ages of 18 and 25. You can also include songs that will help them recall happy times, such as weddings, births, and other milestone events. Ask other family members and friends for input in case a song is not on your list.
Memory Care will then integrate the song list to set a mood by matching certain songs with a specific activity. For example, upbeat music might be used in activities that require mental alertness, such as bathing or dressing. Quieter songs might be played to promote calmness in the hours leading up to bedtime. Staff will also note which songs your loved one enjoys the most and play them most often.
Another way to participate in your loved one's music therapy is to visit often and sing and clap along with the songs. Even if they can't fully express it, they'll treasure every second of your time together and appreciate your efforts to collaborate with Memory Care staff and help them thrive during their vintage years.
No-cost help finding quality Memory Care Communities in Northeast Florida
Finding a quality Memory Care community for your elderly loved one can be overwhelming, especially if you're doing it alone or for the first time.
That's why families looking for Memory Care in Northeast Florida call Brian Sheridan of Assisted Living Locators. Brian and his team will take the time to get to know your elderly loved one's needs, wants, and requirements and present a list of best-fit options that suit their lifestyle. With Brian on your side, you'll have all the information you need to make the most informed decision possible.
Contact Brian at 904-559-3203 or email@example.com to find the best Memory Care community in Northeast Florida for you or a family member today!