The connection between dementia and music is fast becoming a point of study and focus with caregivers across America. More and more caregivers and communities with the resources available are incorporating music therapy into their senior living communities.
Not only does music soothe anxiety, but studies are being done that show music intervention has a positive therapeutic value for age-related cognitive decline.
When it comes to those who are in the late or even early stages of dementia care, the need for exposure to the best resources and skills for your loved ones is crucial.
Music activities, a music therapy program, or access to a music therapist, are just some of the possible ways to improve the well-being of those living with dementia.
This article will explore some of those studies and show how music and cognition play a significant role.
How is music connected to cognitive function?
A dementia diagnosis can be challenging to receive.
Whether your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, it sometimes leaves family members scrambling to find solutions.
Exciting new studies are researching therapies based on an age-old innovation — music.
The science behind it
A recent study found that children who partake in musical training have better reading ability, executive functions, verbal memory, and second language pronunciation accuracy.
The study also found that learning to play a musical instrument as a child may predict academic performance and even IQ in young adulthood.
These types of studies suggest a connection between cognitive function and music throughout an entire lifespan, even as we age. And that led to the research of connections between dementia patients and music.
Another study employed piano instruction as a potential intervention to slow down normal age-related cognitive decline.
Compared to the control group, older adults who knew little about the piano at the start of the study showed significant improvement by the end.
How does music help someone with dementia?
Studies have shown positive effects of music therapy and exposure to musical instruments.
Patients had immediate and positive engagement effects when exposed to interactive live music. In addition, they had a particularly notable improvement in apathy symptoms, regardless of any stages of dementia issues.
A smaller study found that listening to pieces of familiar music effectively reduced anxiety for subjects with dementia.
Even more so, the scientists found that the power of music could improve the duration and quality of sleep for healthy seniors with different levels of senior care and those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association and music therapy
The Alzheimer’s Association recently published a story in their official magazine about the benefits of music for dementia, saying it “can serve as a bridge to a memory.”
In the article, they promoted music as an evidence-based therapy that can be used to improve the emotional, physical, social and cognitive needs of an individual.
They suggest credentialed musical therapists could potentially provide a treatment plan to stimulate positive interactions and facilitate cognitive function.
What types of music are best for dementia?
In addition to the many other studies, the Mayo Clinic also found research suggesting singing songs or listening to music can improve mood and provide behavioral or emotional benefits for Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s patients frequently preserve musical memories because the key brain areas linked to their favorite songs tend to be left undamaged by the disease.
Because of this, an individual’s personal preferences in music would likely play a significant role in any therapeutic benefits.
In addition, insight into the patient’s tastes in music or songs that might evoke happier times can be helpful suggestions from family members and loved ones.
How to choose the right music for your loved one
When you choose music for a loved one, to relieve their stress, diminish anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation, consider the following:
- Set the mood — Soothing music can make routines run easier during a morning hygiene routine or mealtime. Conversely, upbeat or faster-paced tunes might boost a loved one’s mood.
- Watch out for overstimulation — It’s a good idea to eliminate competing noises when playing music. Match the volume to the hearing abilities of your loved ones. Make sure to choose music options that aren’t interrupted by commercials, which may cause confusion.
- Movement — Whether you are directly responsible for their care or have entrusted their well-being to a safe senior-living facility, getting a loved one to clap or tap their feet to the beat can help.
- Sing along — Singing music together can boost moods and enhance proximity relationships. Singing may also help stimulate unique memories.
By paying attention to the person’s response, a caregiver can learn if a particular song or different types of music have a positive or negative effect.
Further benefits of music therapy
Research also suggests that music could benefit caregivers in nursing homes or other assisted living places.
They found that music could reduce anxiety and distress, lighten the mood, and provide a way to connect with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.
The Kensington Redondo Beach offers innovative care
The care of our senior loved ones can involve many different factors.
As they age or develop different conditions, a senior’s quality of life depends on access to things like superior dining choices, the option of an active social life, access to physical therapy (with a special focus on geriatric physical therapy), and so on.
Some memory care and assisted living facilities don’t have access to such services.
They likely don’t even have the capability to introduce live music to their guests. Or they might be unaware of the connection between dementia and music.
At Kensington Redondo Beach, we are always looking for new ways to increase our guest’s quality of life.
Our assisted living communities have three grand pianos frequently played for those in our care. Even our executive director, Robert May, will regularly play in the neighborhoods, enabling a more peaceful and positive environment via the gift of music.
If you are struggling to find solutions for your loved one, contact us today.
We’d love to show you around our facility and answer any questions you might have and help you find the best answers for those you care most about.