The Power of Music for dementia

One of these non-pharmacological interventions besides Art and Movement, is: Music. It is a great technique to treat patients with dementia at any stage, even when cognitive deterioration is very severe. 

The Voise Foundation’s YouTube channel offers a convenient and cost-effective platform for accessing therapeutic music for dementia videos.

Striking the Right Chords: 10 Remarkable Benefits of Music for Dementia

1. Enhances Memory Recall: Music can act as a time machine, triggering memories and emotions, helping dementia patients reconnect with their past.

2. Improves Cognitive Abilities: Listening to and creating music stimulates cognitive processes, potentially slowing cognitive decline in dementia patients.

3. Boosts Emotional Well-being: Music can uplift spirits, reduce anxiety and depression, and foster a sense of comfort and happiness.

4. Encourages Social Interaction: Group music therapy fosters social connections and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.

5. Promotes Physical Activity and Coordination: Rhythm-based activities like dancing or clapping enhance motor skills and coordination, promoting better physical health.

6.  Facilitates Non-Verbal Expression: Music provides an alternative medium for emotional release and self-expression, particularly for those struggling with verbal communication.

7. Improves Quality of Sleep: Slow tempo music can create a relaxing environment, reducing agitation and promoting better sleep.

8. Strengthens Personal Identity and Self-Esteem: Engaging with familiar music can help dementia patients maintain their sense of identity, boosting self-esteem and personal accomplishment.

9. Reduces Pain and Stress: Soothing music can alleviate physical stress and pain, reducing the discomfort experienced by individuals with dementia.

 

10. Enhances Quality of Life: By facilitating emotional, cognitive, and social engagement, music therapy contributes to an overall better quality of life for dementia patients and their caregivers.

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Top Five Advantages of Music for Dementia as a therapy

  1. Enhances Cognitive Function: Studies, including a 2019 MIT research, have shown that 40Hz stimulation enhances gamma waves and neuronal connections, improving memory and cognition in dementia patients.

  2. Mood Improvement: Music therapy’s positive effect on mood and well-being is widely recognized, with a 2017 Cochrane Review noting its significant impact on emotional well-being and quality of life in dementia patients.

  3. Safe Alternative: A 2018 review published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease highlights music therapy’s potential in avoiding side effects commonly associated with dementia medication.

  4. Applicable Across Stages: The Alzheimer’s Association cites music therapy as beneficial for dementia patients at all stages, promoting communication, memory recall, and physical coordination.

  5. Cost-Efficient Therapy: As per the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is not only a clinically proven method but also a cost-efficient therapeutic option, improving accessibility for many patients.

Music for Dementia

But what exactly is meant by music therapy? 

According to the World Federation for Music Therapy  it is “the use of music and/or musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) by a qualified music therapist, with a client or group, in a process designed to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilization, expression, organization, and other relevant therapeutic objectives, in order to meet physical emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs.”

Music for dementia can be applied in different settings and contexts. It can be used in civic centers, retirement homes, day care centers, day hospitals, patient associations, geriatric residences, and private homes 1.

music for dementia

Music Therapy Activities for Dementia Patients

Music based interventions usually involve receptive musical activities such as listening to a music playlist or active musical activities for example participating in music-making.

Both types, passive music listening and active music making, will be discussed further during this page. While this section is dedicated to passive music listening and further discusses the benefits and characteristics of this, a section on active music making, specifically singing, is discussed at the bottom of this page.

During passive music sessions, choose songs significant to the patient. Why is that?

Because research has shown that listening to personally meaningful music for dementia can convey positive social interaction and promote positive emotions and memories. 

VST Music Singing Couple

Singing Dementia Research

The general benefits of active music therapy or in this case singing are still the easy accessibility as well as the enjoyment of the patient.

But did you know that if you are a caregiver, you can also benefit from these methods, especially from singing with the patient?

Below are some of the benefits that not only help the patient per se, but also you as a family- or regular caregiver. These findings are based on research from Lee et al., 2022.

enhancing caregiver-patient relationships

Several studies indicated that music intervention strengthened reciprocity between the caregiver and the patient.

Other studies have shown that these interventions enhanced the quality of time spent together, facilitated meaningful interactions, animated conversations and gave both the patient as well as the caregiver an opportunity to make new memories together.

Improved social well-being

Participation in music interventions increased family care-giver’s feelings of social connection and support.

Other benefits are the reduction of feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as the increased feelings of belonging and solidarity.

Enhanced emotional well-being

Musical interventions positively affect one or more aspects of the family carer’s emotional well-being. Significant increase can be found in levels of relaxation, comfort and happiness.

These enhanced emotional well-being can be either traced back to improved mood while making music or seeing the positive impacts on their care recipients: being engaged, happy and responsive. These interventions can also be seen as a form of distraction from stress.

VST Music Tree

Benefits for coping and caring

Participating in musical activities with your loved one can help you to cope with your caring role.

Through playing an active role you can also contribute to your care recipients well-being meeting their needs in-the-moment which can result in reduced feeling of helplessness for you as a caregiver.