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How to Create a Positive Music Experience for Your Loved One with Dementia

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How to Create a Positive Music Experience for Your Loved One with Dementia

Dementia care authorities at the Alzheimer’s Association and the Mayo Clinic have long recognized the therapeutic benefits of music for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Recently, the scientific knowledge on the effects of music on the symptoms of dementia was advanced further in a report published in the July 2018 edition of JAMDA, the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

The article, titled, Music therapy: Passive better than active for those with dementia, study finds reported that “Listening to music appears to be more effective in reducing agitation, behavioral symptoms and anxiety for older adults with dementia than does their singing or playing along with music. ‘Receptive music therapy’ also may offer a way for operators to reduce the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs for residents with dementia, and also save costs compared with implementing interactive music therapy.”

Says, Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “This new research on music and its role in dementia care is very important to both at-home caregivers and leading senior living communities such as Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr that specialize in dementia care and provide the latest in best practice therapies.

“Just listening to songs that have personal meaning and relevance can take individuals with dementia back in time, enabling them to experience pleasant memories while also reducing the unpleasant symptoms of their disease. For these reasons, music plays an important role in our programming activities and our residents’ lives at Impressions Memory Care.”

Seven Key Benefits of Receptive Music Therapy

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s article “Music Therapy Enhancing Cognition,” listening to music can provide several valuable benefits to loved ones living with dementia. These include:

1. Elevated Mood and Emotional State – According to dementia researchers, listening to music can increase levels of melatonin – a hormone that regulates mood, lowers aggression and reduces depression. Thus, even into the late stages of the disease, music therapy helps to influence behavior and emotion.

2. Improved Memory and Recall – Listening to familiar songs can enable loved ones to tap into happy memories associated with the song or that time in their life, often with stunning clarity.

3. Pain Management – Soothing music provides a natural way to relieve pain and anxiety caused by stress or tension associated with dementia.

4. Healthy Stimulation – Music provides sensory stimulation that reduces apathy and promotes interest even when other approaches are ineffective, say memory care experts.

5. Socialization – Music brings people together, gives them something to share and helps those with dementia to combat isolation and depression.

6. Promoting Movement and Vocal Fluency – Even in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, music can help facilitate basic movements and speech.

7. Providing a Sense of Purpose and Control – Listening to familiar songs, remembering the words and clapping along can give someone with dementia feelings of success and normalcy while they engage with others.

Ways You Can Provide a Positive Music Experience to Your Loved One at Home

Crystal adds, “It is quite simple and easy to implement receptive music therapy. Therefore, we recommended that family caregivers offer this type of therapy to their loved ones with dementia in the home. For best results, dementia care therapists recommend selecting music that is relevant to your loved one’s life and helps them to reminisce about their happiest days past.”

To help you get started, the Mayo Clinic offers these useful tips:

  • Start with your loved one's preferences – Think about the types of music that your loved one enjoys. What music will evoke memories of happy times in their life? You can involve family and old friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Create the mood that fits their schedule – Play music that's soothing to calm your loved one during mealtime or before bed. When you'd like to boost your loved one's mood, use more upbeat music from their past
  • Avoid overstimulation – When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV, set the volume based on your loved one's hearing ability and select music that isn't interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement – Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  • Pay attention to how your loved one responds – If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a specific song or type of music, choose something else.

By providing a bridge across time to your loved one’s happiest days, music has an almost magical power to calm, engage and relax individuals with dementia – reducing their anxiety and improving their sense of well-being. Perhaps English playwright William Congreve, said it best when he wrote the famous words, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.”

We invite you to read our other timely articles on current caregiver subjects and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.386.6323 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.