How Music Therapy Can Help People With Alzheimer’s Disease
Music can be an effective tool in improving the quality of life for those suffering from dementia. It elicits feelings and memories, reduces agitation and depression, and enhances communication with loved ones.
Music therapists collaborate with patients to design an individualized program of musical interventions that address their physical, emotional and cognitive needs. The therapists develop this plan of care after reviewing each patient’s medical history, personal history, preferences and challenges.
Music therapy’s effects on mood vary depending on the type of music and intensity. For instance, fast-paced songs may encourage someone to move around while more sedating music may provide comforting comfort.
One study revealed that listening to familiar music stimulated the brain and produced more positive emotions than unfamiliar music. Researchers from the Universities of Kentucky, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Harvard and Iowa examined the impact of brief exposure to familiar music on individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Music therapy requires close collaboration between the patient and therapist in order to identify their preferences and strengths. This is especially critical for those individuals who have difficulty verbalizing or recalling memories.
Furthermore, it is essential for the therapist to interact with both patients and their family in order to make them comfortable. Furthermore, they should possess knowledge about working with specific diseases affecting the patient.
At each session, the therapist will play music that is meaningful to both the patient and their caregivers. For instance, someone living with dementia might have strong religious beliefs and would appreciate songs that reflect this faith.
They might recall a favorite song from their youth or admire classical music. Alternatively, they might appreciate listening to classic rock or pop hits from the past.
The therapist may use music to stimulate or reorient a person’s focus by playing something with a rapid tempo and plenty of percussion. This helps them stay awake and engaged in daily tasks, often leading to more physical exercise for those suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Therapists can use music to aid a person with dementia recall events from the past. For instance, if they recall attending a party with their grandparents or great-grandparents, they could sing a favorite song to commemorate it.
Many find music to be the only way they can reconnect with their past and stay alive in the present. Furthermore, music serves as a means for communicating with family members when language becomes an obstacle.
Some music therapy techniques involve bringing a person with dementia into an auditorium where a live ensemble plays their favorite music from youth. The therapist then encourages the patient to interact with the music by singing, dancing or playing simple instruments like shakers, drums and tambourines.