Music, Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Can Music Ease the symptoms?

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

Whenever we read about how to improve our performance, studying efforts, how to focus or sleep better, we can notice that listening to music is being mentioned all the times. We have to agree that music has the power to affect our body, mind and soul, but can it help ease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Music and Dementia – Is there a connection?

According to Jillian Levy (2017) there are several health benefits of music from which we will like to point out the following. Music helps “managing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It also reduces depression and other symptoms in the elderly and improves self-expression and communication”

Music has the power to unlock memories and greatly improve the quality of life. It can make us feel nostalgic and it is interesting that people suffering from dementia react to songs they were listening as children which provoke personal memories and emotions. Based on the research of Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics at the University of California, Alzheimer's disease and dementia don’t have a significant effect of the parts of the brain connected to musical memory. This is exactly what is needed to make the psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia easier.

Recalling Memories and Emotions with Music

A recent study showed that people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s were able to recall memories and emotions after listening and singing tunes they were listening to while they were growing up.

During the research one group of patients were just listening to selected songs. Another group was being lead through the song. The results have shown that the effects were much more significant if the patients were lead through the songs, than in those just listening. 

Here are the main reasons researchers believe music had positive effect on the second group.

Music triggers emotions, emotions bring back memories

Even with patients where the Alzheimer’s disease was in the most advanced stage music managed to trigger some emotions. Basically, music succeeded to make the patients feel alive when nothing else could bring that feeling back. Accordingly, combining music with everyday activities has helped patients recall the memory of the specific activity. As a result their cognitive abilities were improved over time.

Improves physical and emotional connections

Sharing emotions with the people taking care of them is something that often stops in the late stages of the disease. However, music can make the patients dance. Dancing on the other hand leads to physical contact which can bring up memories and feeling of security. 

Musical aptitude and appreciation are still active in the later stages of dementia

Patients with Alzheimer’s lose many of their abilities, but the last two that remain long after all the abilities disappear are music aptitude and appreciation. Therefore music is a great way to reach the person even when the disease is in the later stages.

Engage by singing

The effects of singing were more than surprising. It didn’t just engage the brain. It is well known that singing activates the left part of the brain and listening to music activates the right part. The brain was so stimulated by both singing and listening that the patients expressed increased brain activity during the sessions.

How to play music to Alzheimer’s or Dementia patients? Best equipment.

When we think about the devices needed to play music to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients we have to choose those that are as simple as possible. The good thing is that there are already headphones and music players designed specifically for his group of people. 

Music Players

People with dementia will benefit from basic music players. These players have a simple interface. For example, on some music players you can start or stop the music just by lifting or lowering a thick handle. Some speakers have a large button the person has to push in order to start or stop the music. The volume and songs are preprogrammed in this case. 

It is not recommended to use the radio because the commercials can be a bit distracting and confusing. Therefore it is best to setup the device for the patient and create a playlist with the songs

Headphones and Speakers

Whether you will choose to listen to music using speakers or headphones depends on several different things. For example, speakers are good for daily activities but because older people often have hearing problems they may ask you to turn the volume up. On the other hand this may not be comfortable for everyone. This is why headphones are a good option, but you have to take care about the comfort. Older people generally prefer “on ear” headphones instead of earbuds so keep this in mind.

Streaming Services

Use of streaming services like Spotify or Pandora is great because of their option to offer similar or related music or preprogrammed playlists. Spotify specifically offers playlists for dementia or relaxation. However, the use of streaming services may require the help of a caregiver.

There are many proofs that music has positive effect for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, we have to make a difference between the listening and performance. Also, playing music the patient likes the most has more positive effect than listening to something we think would be the best. The connections between music and dementia are not that simple and we have to mention that there are cases where no improvement was registered. However, this is not a reason not to use music to ease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.


This Post First Appeared On :

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

Page Comments