Music Therapy for People with Dementia

Music Therapy for People with Dementia: Why it Works

What they say is probably true – music heals our soul. Listening to music is a very relaxing experience. It has a very special ability to move us, stir our emotions, and make us feel comfortable and at peace. But for people with dementia, tuning in to their favourite songs does more than relax their mind. Both anecdotal and clinical evidences would say – music is an effective therapeutic intervention that may improve their quality of life...hence the term Music Therapy.

The use of music in the treatment of dementia is not new. In many healthcare facilities, older adults with memory problems are given access to music as a therapeutic intervention. In fact, many music students and experienced musicians throughout UK now regard care home visits as part of their learning experience. Even charities organise shows in home care centres, featuring professional and amateur singers trained to deal with the elderly and memory-impaired audience.

Anecdotal and clinical case studies suggest that when people with dementia listen to the music they are familiar with, they tend to remember their youth and become animated. They even sing sometimes, especially if it is church music or something they’ve sung in the past. Furthermore, people with less form of dementia are able to talk about their past experiences, as well as the places they’ve been after listening to music. The effectiveness of music therapy is enhanced when the patient is shown familiar photographs.

In 2007, Ziv and colleagues found that music has the ability to make dementia patients calmer and evoke more positive behaviour.  In this study, patients with Alzheimer’s disease where observed under two conditions – with music or without music. They observed that when patients listened to the music, they were less agitated, uncomfortable, and vocal, and more positive and calm.

Using Music Therapy for You

Do you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia? Maybe you can help improve his or her quality of life through music therapy. There is really no reason for you not to try it. Music therapy is inexpensive, simple, and in case does not work, is definitely harmless! Here’s how you can help a loved one deal with dementia through the power of music:

Pick a song he or she likes. Although soft and slow music have the most profound impact on the brain, most people react more positively to the music they like. Let your loved one choose the kind of music he or she wants.

Observe his or her reactions. You’ll definitely know it when your loved one doesn’t want the music he or she’s listening to. You have to be observant until you’ve figured out what playlist to play. You can also try to ask. If he or she responds, that would be great. Otherwise, you need to experiment, watch and listen.

Make sure the volume is just right. The volume of the music should not be too low that your loved one couldn’t hear it anymore, or too loud that it could sound irritating. Try looking for music that is lower and has a stronger beat. If your loved one has hearing problems, you may need to invest on good speakers or headset. People with hearing problems often have uneven hearing. They can’t hear quiet noises but often get startled with sounds above their hearing threshold.

Initiate a conversation. Music therapy can also be used to establish connection with the person suffering from dementia. As mentioned, listening to music can trigger emotions, memories and feelings that in most cases, dementia sufferers could not express. Whilst listening to music, take out some photos of their childhood and the good old days. Encourage your loved one to talk about their past experiences and observe if he or she is recalling significant events.

That’s about it! See? You can help improve the quality of life of people with dementia through music therapy. And science can attest to it. By taking note of the simple steps mentioned in this article, you can be a blessing to someone who has dementia.

If you prefer me to help, book in for a Music Therapy session at the suite. Call me on 02380639913 for more details.

I look forward to helping you.

Best wishes, Steve