music therapy

Knowledge about the healing influence of music is no younger than the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The ancient Greeks believed music could restore concord and peace to both body and soul. They believed its study was an essential aspect of good education because its harmonic qualities, scales, ratios and mathematic progressions contributed to a better mind.

The 20th century witnessed a surge of activity with respect to music therapy. After the two world wars, musicians were employed in military hospitals across the United States to play for emotionally and physically traumatized veterans.

How Music Therapy Benefits Dementia Patients

music therapy for dementia

The outcomes of various studies reveal that music therapy, irrespective of whether it’s Finnish folk music or a love ballad, works for dementia and the future potential is considerable.

#1. Provides a Medium for Communication

A common problem seen in dementia patients is a struggle with verbal communication, a difficulty to form and understand sentences. This can lead to social isolation. Music therapy awakens areas of the brain not affected by dementia and offers an alternative mode of communication between patient and caretaker or patient and family/friends. It also encourages group activity.

#2. Improves Mood

As per arecent study from the University Of Miami School Of Medicine, music therapy assisted with increasing the production of melatonin, prolactin and serotonin in Alzheimer’s patients. Indeed, even in dementia, music can help with mood shifting. Soft or sedative music can assist with calming agitated or irritable patients who are frustrated with their condition. Lullabies can help ease patients to sleep faster.

Music can help reduce a distressed mood and resistance from the patient or other behavioural problems when the caretaker tries to assist with daily activities such as bathing or dressing.

#3. Can Reduce the Need for Medication

Though dementia is to date incurable, doctors may prescribe medication to manage such symptoms as anxiety, confusion and depression. Research indicates that music can reduce the need for dementia patients to take drugs that actually increase their mortality risk, by helping them center themselves and manage discomfort and pain in a
non-pharmacological manner.

#4. Can Trigger Positive Emotions

Playing music that can trigger memories from the past, provides a strong stimulus to elicit positive responses from them, even in advanced stages of the condition. This could be old wartime music, a piece from their wedding, or a favourite song. It is frequently seen that dementia patients who are otherwise weak in memory can recollect the words of their favourite old songs.

Making dementia patients listen to familiar music assists them to feel the association while triggering powerful emotions in them.  What’s more, as per a recent report in the Cochrane Library Journal, music therapy could help with improving their emotional health.

#5. Makes Patients Active

Music therapy helps to encourage movement and dance. Owing to the fact that music offers a more fun way to move, dementia patients would be more enthusiastic about it than a regular exercise program.

#6. Provides a Feeling of Control, Improves Motor Skills and Cognition

Music can help patients feel a renewed sense of control over their life and in maintaining motor skills. Singing can potentially improve cognition by stimulating brain activity. It also enables dialogue.

Choosing The Right Music

In patients with dementia, music therapy should be individualized to suit each person’s specific needs. ‘One song fits all’ will not work here. Music therapists collaborate with caregivers, family members and the patients themselves to determine the ideal music to achieve a specific goal such as enhancing cognition, improving memory, or reducing agitation.

Music selected from the time when the patient was 18 to 25 years of age is likely to elicit the strongest responses with positive recollection and engagement.

It is possible that music may trigger a negative reaction. So be watchful of how the person is reacting. If the outcome is unwarranted distress, better to stop the music.

Begin with quiet, gentle music but still make it the focus. Adjust the volume depending on the person’s response.


Why Music Therapy Works for Dementia 1