Music and dementia
It’s been said that, “Where words fail, music speaks.” And, while this quote from Hans Christian Anserson may well be recognising the universality of music to stir the soul and communicate in ways otherwise impossible, it also pertains to helping connect with those living with dementia. Music therapy is thought to have first been used back in the 18th century, while the adoption of it for widespread use in the UK began as recently as the 1960s. Today, it is used to help trigger positive feelings and connect with people – not least those living with dementia.
How does music affect us?
Music has the ability to engage and connect with us on a number of levels, stirring emotions and triggering positive – and negative – feelings. But there’s more. Studies have also been conducted and found that listening to music has the ability to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, easing pain and relieving muscle tension. What’s more, music can help release ‘feel good’ endorphins, thereby helping boost mood, reduce depression and ease anxiety.
In addition to the physical benefits associated with listening to music, it’s also been found that music has the ability to improve concentration and attention span, memory, and even speech and non-verbal communication skills. Since all of these facets of life can be impacted by dementia, there’s little surprise that music therapy is advantageous to those living with the condition.
What are the benefits?
Embracing music therapy for dementia has many benefits. Whether it’s simply listening to music, singing, dancing, or playing an instrument themselves, it creates a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that helps foster and maintain relationships with others. There’s also the added benefit of helping those living with dementia to express feelings and ideas when communication may otherwise be impaired, while the opportunity to also move and get some exercise is of vital importance.
Of course, music is also a trigger for memories. For instance, hearing a particular song may transport someone living with dementia to their first dance on their wedding day; perhaps a nursery rhyme recalls a period from childhood; or even a piece of music can stir a memory of happier times. The power of music to have this impact should never be underestimated.
How to use music
Whether individually or as part of a group, music should be chosen according to their preferences and introduced quietly and gently to begin. You can then engage them by tapping to the rhythm, dancing along, or even singing/humming the tune. You should, of course, be aware that some music may trigger negative emotions and memories, so be prepared to either change songs or stop entirely and provide suitable support and reassurance.
The ability for music to make a positive impact on the lives of those living with dementia should never be underestimated. We at Avante Care & Support work hard to ensure that those dealing with the condition have access to all the support and guidance needed, so you can liaise with us today to discuss the benefits of music therapy for your loved one.