Music is all around us. In the early morning songs of birds. In the steady whoosh of highway traffic. In the rhythmic beating of our heart. It’s no wonder we’re drawn to it from an early age and enjoy it throughout our lives. While music can be therapeutic and help us relieve stress, promote a sense of well-being, inspire us to get up and move or just get through the day, there are also a lot of benefits of music therapy for seniors with dementia.
Music therapy is defined as the use of music by a qualified music therapist to address a person’s physical, emotional, cognitive or social needs. Incorporating music into the lives of those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can have several profound benefits. For example, gentle music can help calm agitation and refocus negative behaviors into a more positive activity.
Even in the later stages of dementia and when most human interactions fail, music therapy programs for senior citizens can still help them connect to the larger world.
Name That Tune
Most of our early childhood includes music. As kids, we used tunes to learn our ABCs and lessons about itsy, bitsy spiders and Jack and Jill. But most of our preferred musical tastes are formed in our teens and early 20s. Once a music therapist figures out the preferred musical era or childhood songs, they can start to do some simple music therapy activities for seniors with dementia including:
Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Proud
Fortunately there are songs almost everyone knows, such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or “Home on the Range.” One simple activity a music therapist may use is is encouraging everyone to sing along to a well-known song.
Playing simple percussion instruments – chimes, drums, tambourines – or bells and kazoos lets everyone get involved in making music. Plus it can be a bit of a physical workout.
Whether it’s clapping their hands, bobbing their heads or swaying back and forth, seniors can still move to the rhythm.
Benefits of Music Therapy
Music can do more than just put a smile on your face or remind you of a special moment. Here are some of the biggest benefits of music therapy for seniors with dementia.
Listening to music has been found to help seniors deal with stress and anxiety by slowing high heart rates and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Speech and Cognitive Skills
Music therapy is often used to slow the decline of speech skills in dementia patients. It can also inspire nonverbal seniors to communicate by singing or humming. Stanford University researchers found that rhythmic music stimulates certain areas of the brain to increase blood flow; it can also help improve seniors’ performance on cognitive tests.
In music therapy programs, seniors are encouraged to communicate and connect with other members of their group, often leading to new friendships. By socializing, seniors can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Research at the University of Miami School of Medicine revealed that music therapy leads to increased secretion levels of melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and prolactin (also known as “feel-good” brain chemicals) in Alzheimer’s patients.
Finding a Music Therapist
At Brandon Wilde, we offer music therapy for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We also feature a program called MUSIC & MEMORY®, which helps those who suffer from cognitive and physical challenges find renewed meaning and connection in their lives through personalized music. This collection of songs can tap deep memories not lost to dementia and can revive participants, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.
To learn more about our music therapy and dementia care, visit our Memory Care page or use our contact form.