Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s

October 10, 2016

Music therapy can have a profound effect on those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Only recently established, music can help those with the disease to recall memories and emotions that have been badly damaged by the disease.

Not only that, but improved mental performances have been noted too. This can happen after signing along to any number of songs, from those released as singles to hits featured in movies, theatre, and television.

Studies remain relatively new, but it is clear that music therapy is a beneficial treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s. Here is what we know so far:

Music Helps to Produce Emotions Related to Memories

Listening to music can help evoke emotions even among those with late stages of Alzheimer’s.  This is because music is deeply embedded in our memories and strongly linked with emotions, so by awakening emotions through music, the associated memories can often be recalled.

The music will need to be something that patient has a prior connection with, as music that has been previously experienced is the most effective in eliciting emotions and memories. Should you be unaware of what type of music this could be, try to gauge their reaction with a certain piece.

Always be mindful of negative reactions. Distress should be avoided when attempting music therapy, so be on the lookout for signs of agitation such as muscle tension or grimacing.

The Type of Music Can Have Different Effects

Different music can have a different effect on each patient. For example, calm and soothing music can help to relax a patient, whilst music from their childhood could help to evoke a certain memory. Sometimes a familiar song can just help to improve their overall mood.

Lookout for classic songs from an individual’s youth, as these are often regarded as the most effective for evoking memories. Those suffering from later stages of the disease may benefit from listening to even older songs from their childhood.

Encouraging singalongs can also be an effective use of music, helping to provide communication that is often missing from an Alzheimer’s patient.

Music Can Simulate Both Mental and Physical Response

As previously mentioned, the type of music can affect the response from the patient, with slow, calming music commonly referred to as sedative music – music that helps to quieten a patient and help them to relax. This can be helpful in situations where the person has become agitated or

Conversely, there is stimulative music, which can actually stimulate a mental and often physical response. Music that features higher tempos and more percussion can help to create physical response such as toe-tapping or clapping, becoming more active and aware, or even getting the patient up and dancing.

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