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11 Dec 2017

Dealing with Dementia through Music Therapy: What You Need to Know


Topics: Home Care

Dementia can be devastating for both those with the disease and those who provide care. As the population ages, dementia is becoming more common. The rising incidence of the condition has sparked much research on care and therapies. 

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Research is shedding light on a number of treatments and therapies. One of the most promising is music therapy.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia manifests in many different ways. The most common and recognized is the loss of memory beyond that associated with normal aging. For those dealing with dementia, the condition brings many difficult challenges and changes. Patients may be frustrated or confused by their inability to remember. They may experience changes in mood and personality. 

For those who are dealing with dementia from a caregiver’s perspective, these changes can be just as upsetting. Many hope for effective therapies to treat symptoms or slow progression of the disease. Music therapy is one promising treatment.

What Is Music Therapy?

For centuries, people have associated music with calmness and relief from tension and stress. In fact, many people probably practice music therapy without knowing they do! If you’ve ever put on soothing relaxation music to help you fall asleep, you’ve practised a form of music therapy. 

New tools are allowing scientists to measure how the brain reacts to music. Music appears to act on not just the auditory areas of the brain but on large-scale neural networks throughout. For example, the limbic areas of the brain are associated with emotions. They are involved in processing rhythm and tonality.

What Effects Does It Have?

Since music activates so many different areas of the brain, engaging with music has many different effects. Since the areas of the brain involved in updating memories, paying attention, and making predictions are activated by music, music may help people engage in these activities.

Engaging with music also boosts mood and promotes memory recall. It can even affect the perception of pain and discomfort, as well as reduce stress.

The Promise for Dementia Patients

Music has some very positive effects on the human brain. What promise does it hold specifically for those dealing with dementia?

Perhaps most importantly, music promotes memory recall. People with dementia can often remember and sing songs long after they stop recognizing names or faces. Music therapy also seems to slow the loss of mental cognition characteristic of dementia patients.

Music has many other benefits for those dealing with dementia. It boosts mood, provides entertainment, and offers opportunities to interact with others. It can even help manage pain and discomfort. For some, just engaging with music can provide a sense of control over their lives.

Where Can You Find Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a common treatment for those in the early stages of dementia. As a result, many care facilities offer some form of music therapy. Long-term care facilities and day care facilities alike offer music therapy. You may even be able to find music therapy classes for senior citizens and people dealing with dementia.

Music therapy is also easily practised on your own and at home. A personalized iPod playlist can provide you with everything you need to conduct music therapy. Be sure to organize different playlists for different kinds of moods. Someone who is feeling down might not want to listen to upbeat tunes. Happy songs can help your loved one get started in the morning but could become irritating or cause agitation at other times.

Music can also help you create a calm and relaxing atmosphere for you and your loved one when dealing with dementia. In short, music therapy is an easy and effective treatment to help you deal with dementia more effectively.


Tennille Kerrigan

Tenille is the president of Senior Helpers Canada, the premier franchise that delivers on what families and their loved ones need most. She has bachelor’s degree in business administration from York University, and has over 10 years of experience as a business owner and director. With Senior Helpers, our franchisees provide the professionalism and expert care that families and their aging loved ones require.

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