Music is a universal language and can be used to communicate or engage with someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, even if they no longer speak or respond to other people’s words. Manipulating music to unlock past memories and other cognitive capacities is a cherished principle of clinical neurology.
Have you ever associated a song with specific experience? Music and memory are often intertwined. For example, listening to a song at a wedding, or a tune you listened to during a difficult time in your life, can trigger an emotional response. We often use music to commemorate the lives of loved ones at funerals and wakes. It’s a part of everyday life.
In this way, by pairing music with everyday activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to the recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time. This is only one of the many ways music plays a part in music therapy for someone who has dementia.
How does music benefit dementia patients?
In addition to helping with language and accessing memories, other ways that music can benefit those living with dementia include:
Changing their mood and helping them to relax, especially during personal care. For instance, if a person diagnosed with dementia resists your efforts to help them get dressed, playing soothing music or a favourite song can help lessen any distress.
Helping people with dementia express feelings and ideas
Helping the individual to connect with others around them
Music can encourage social interaction and promotes activity in groups
Music can reduce social isolation through initiating discussions about memories associated with the music and enhancing conversations
Music can facilitate physical exercise and dance or movement which are all very important for those with dementia
It’s important to remember that music is personal, and individuals should be able to choose and enjoy the music that they listen to. Those with dementia are able to make this decision for themselves and these preferences should be adhered to.
There is evidence from scientific studies that listening to music lights up the brain in many places, reaching the parts that others can’t. The recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) showed the benefits of music.
Being able to enjoy music is universal, and it’s a great tool when ensuring the best quality of life for individuals with dementia.
For more articles about dementia, take a look at our healthcare blog.