Music has the special power to lighten moods, boost energy and create relaxed atmospheres. We’ve all experienced music’s influences, and our reactions to music are often so natural we may barely notice them. For those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the natural powers of music can have significant effects on mood, behavior and overall well-being when used as a memory care therapy.
“The proven benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer’s are remarkable,” says Carmen Duren, Executive Director at Provident Village at Canton. “We’ve helped families and caregivers provide agitation management, cognitive stimulation and an avenue for emotional expression for their loved ones – all through music. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, when loved ones have lost much of their ability to communicate, music therapy has given them a way to connect emotionally and physically. Music encourages a closeness and intimacy that many families haven’t experienced in a long time.”
Why Music Therapy Works So Well
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), music has a profound effect on people with Alzheimer’s because “rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.”
One study described in an Alzheimers.net article, “5 Reasons Why Music Boosts Brain Activity,” showed that music therapy actually boosts brain activity by engaging so many parts of the brain. Researchers measured the brain activity of Alzheimer’s participants in a singing session. While singing engaged the left side of the brain, listening to the music activated the right side, and watching the instructor activated visual areas of the brain. When used correctly, music therapy can give Alzheimer’s patients a stimulating brain workout.
Music also creates emotions in a way nothing else can, which may lead to memory recall and reminiscing. Research shows that listening to music can increase levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates mood, lowers aggression and reduces depression. So, even into the late stages of the disease, music therapy helps influence behavior and emotion.
Tips for Using Music Therapy with Your Loved One
Alzheimer’s experts such as those at AFA and Sherri Snelling, Founder and CEO of Caregiving Club and author of the article “Caregivers Take Note – Music as Therapy,” offer advice for caregivers who wish to apply music therapy to the daily care of their loved ones. Suggestions include:
- For early-stage Alzheimer’s: Go out dancing; see a live concert or performance; encourage them to try playing an instrument they once played.
- Encourage dancing with a partner. This can often lead to hugs and caresses that are otherwise rare.
- Use music to assist with physical exercise. Playing music while exercising can help with gait and balance. This can also help your loved one follow a routine if you play the same kind of music each time, readying them for an exercise session.
- Choose music from happy times. Music from your loved one’s early adult years (18 – 25) has been shown to have the most positive effects.
- Select music mindfully. Play music with a steady, percussive beat if your goal is to help stimulate your loved one. If you want to help them calm down or prepare for bed, soothing and quiet songs work best.
- Use a source of music without interruptions. Radio stations have frequent interruptions for advertisements, which could confuse your loved one. CDs, iTunes playlists and Internet radio sites such as Pandora® or Spotify® are better options.
- Get the grandkids involved. Music therapy is a great way to involve younger family members. Ask your children to make a CD or playlist of your loved one’s favorite songs.
- Encourage movement. Guide your loved one to clap or sway, as you listen to music together.
- Avoid sensory overload. Find a setting without background noises. Turn off the TV and ask others in the room to avoid conversations unless they are helping with the music therapy.
Making Music for Vibrant Living
Due to its ability to allow for self-expression and social interaction, music therapy is often utilized at assisted living communities such as Provident Village at Canton. “Music therapy is a pro-social activity,” says Duren. “Even for memory care residents who no longer communicate verbally, music gives them an emotional ‘voice.’
“We use music therapy as one of many life-enrichment activities for our residents with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments. At Provident Village, we carefully design programs that promote physical and emotional well-being and prolong daily functioning. Music therapy helps residents coordinate motor skills, keep their minds active and, most importantly, find joy in every day.”
Provident Village at Canton focuses on creating vibrant days filled with dignity and purpose. A team specially trained in Alzheimer’s care provides personal attention and guidance to help residents remain as active as possible, and they ensure families the peace of mind of knowing their loved one’s well-being is top priority.
Provident Village is committed to helping families of those with memory loss provide the best care possible. See what insightful educational events and programs the community is hosting for family caregivers by viewing the Events calendar on our website.
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Canton
At Provident Village at Canton, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.