The Joyful Power of Music

June 26, 2014

Music brings us great joy throughout our lives. Whether it’s a song we remember from school days, a lullaby we sang to our babies, or the song we danced to at our weddings, music has the power to soothe, to relax, and to bring back some of our fondest memories.

Recent discoveries in the field of music therapy, however, are proving that music also has the power to help elders cope with the effects of depression, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, traumatic brain injury, and early to mid-range Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Music for Alzheimer’s patients

Familiar music helps early to mid-range Alzheimer’s patients tap into their memories. Research has shown that music can also lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and help seniors with Alzheimer’s to participate in richer social interactions. If you’re wondering how to use music to benefit an Alzheimer’s patient in your care, follow these tips from AARP:

  • Play familiar songs on a CD player. Whatever your loved one was listening to, dancing to and enjoying when he or she was young will make a good selection.
  • If you have a computer available, visit Pandora.com for a great collection of songs from many eras and in many different styles.
  • Play peaceful music early in the day and pick up the tempo gently as the day goes on. A little lively big band music is a nice way to coax your loved one into an activity, like a short walk or a lunch visit with friends.

Relaxation and stress relief for seniors and caregivers

What better way to enjoy the company of your loved one than to share the joy of music together? Sharing can be simply listening to music together, or joining a community choir to be part of a wonderful musical group. You can also put the power of music to work for you both to relieve stress and provide relief from pain. Again, here a few tips for getting the most out of your musical experiences:

  • ┬čTo help you or the senior in your care get to sleep at night, start playing relaxing music after dinner. Choose music that becomes progressively gentler and quieter as you approach bedtime. When it’s time to sleep, play soft, flowing instrumental music to help you drift into a peaceful rest.
  • To help reduce stress and relieve pain, choose soft, melodic music that’s easy to focus on. Love songs and slow ballads will turn the mind away from pain and stress — but make sure the music isn’t so slow or sad that it brings unhappy associations.
  • If you’re looking to cheer up, find some happy, upbeat tunes that get those toes tapping. With the right music you may be able to get your loved on his or her feet for some gentle exercise to help chase those blues away.

Keep in mind that as we age, we lose the ability to hear some frequencies. Your elder may hear some types of music better than others, so experiment — and keep the music as familiar as possible. Memory can often fill in the gaps left by struggling ears. And then enjoy music together as often as possible! Music is a simple expression of love and happiness that builds bridges between people and eases the weariest heart.

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