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Treating Dementia With Music

Five Benefits of Treating Dementia with Music

For a lot of people, music is a significant part of their daily lives. Some people listen to music to pass the time during their morning commute while others listen to music to stay pumped while working out.

Often, music is linked to mood too. Songs can make you happy, sad, relaxed and even energetic (especially when you’re listening to rock music).

Also, music impacts the mindset of an individual and their well-being too. However, did you know it can also help manage a number of medical conditions?  Researchers reached this conclusion through extensive study of music therapy.

Different types of music can actually invoke neurological stimulation. For example, classical music provides comfort and relaxation, whereas rock music can be discomforting (well, sometimes).

Music uses guided imagery for producing different states of consciousness, helping you unravel hidden emotions and stimulate creative insight. Moreover, music is also sometimes used in the classroom to help children develop language and reading skills.

According to the Chinese medical theory, the internal organ and meridian systems are believed to have corresponding musical tones, which is said to make the healing process relatively easier and fast.  

How is music helpful in treating dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used to describe the loss of cognitive function. It is caused when certain changes in the brain occur which are associated with a trauma and disease.

These changes can occur quickly or gradually. Usually, patients use the term “brain fog” – a state of mental confusion – to describe what the condition feels like.

The cognitive functions that are usually affected include:

  • memory,
  • judgement,
  • decision making power,
  • spatial orientation,
  • verbal communication and
  • thinking and reasoning.

It might also result in certain personality changes depending on which area of the brain is affected.

It’s learned if adults with dementia or any other mental disorder listens to music in the therapeutic context, they can observe its effectiveness in many areas. This includes reduced aggressive behavior, cooperation with daily tasks and even improvement in mood.

  1. Evokes Emotions and Helps Recall Memories

Even in the most advanced Alzheimer’s patients, music can help in evoking their emotions. According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, music can bring back the feeling of life.

It works when nothing else does. When paired with daily activities, a rhythm is developed which helps patients in recalling the memory of that activity.

Over time, this helps improve the cognitive ability of the affected person.

  1. Its Memory Never Fades Away

A lead study author, Linda Maguire, says musical aptitude and appreciation of music are the two abilities that remain in dementia and Alzheimer patients even at their last.

Hence, music is surely a great way to reach beyond the disease and communicate with the patient.

  1. It Brings Emotional and Physical Closeness

As the patient reaches the later stages of dementia, they lose their ability to share and express emotions whether it’s with family or caregivers. However, as long as they are able to walk, music can make them dance.

Music therapy along with dancing, leads to kisses, hugs and touching which makes them feel secure and it can trigger some memories too.

  1. Stimulates Different Parts of the Brain

Did you know that singing engages more than just the vocal cords?

Singing activates the left side of the brain while listening to music activates the right side consequently stimulating the visual areas of the brain.

When the brain is triggered so much, the patients tend to use their cognitive functions more than usual, hence keeping their cognitive abilities alive.

  1. Changes Mood, Relieves Stress and Encourages Positive Interactions

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has done a lot of work on music therapy for Alzheimer and dementia patients. Foundation experts discovered when music is used appropriately, it shifts moods, manages stress and stimulates positive interactions.

It also facilitates the cognitive functioning and coordination of the motor movements.

Music: The Sound of Memories

For individuals with dementia, there are ways music can be used to help keep their mind active. People get emotional when listening to music.

Certain brain chemicals associated with joy are released in this process. This triggers structural changes in the brain and playing the same music over time stimulates memories.

Whether it is casual listening or formalized music therapy, both can help reduce incidence of behavioral issues and keep dementia patients calm.

West Virginia University research team led by Dr. Kim Innes conducted a recent study about adults with early memory loss. The study revealed listening to music has multiple benefits for older adults, especially those struggling with memory loss prior to clinical testing.

Music significantly improved the subjective memory function and even the objective cognitive performance in them. The participants’ attention, processing speed, executive function and subjective memory all improved relatively.

What is music therapy for dementia patients?

This music therapy differs from any other music therapy. It helps a patient communicate better, remember things and function at a higher cognitive level.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, this therapy is evidence and clinical based use of music interventions for accomplishing individual goals in a therapeutic context. Music therapy can be used for:

  • Managing stress,
  • Alleviating pain,
  • Expressing feelings,
  • Enhancing memory,
  • Improving communication and
  • Promoting physical rehabilitation.

For this type of music therapy, a trained music therapist is required who can come up with a playlist.  There are certain activities that make musical therapy suitable for dementia patients.

These include music and movement, instrument playing, singing and reminiscing and word cueing. Even though a patient may no longer talk, music turns out to be a path for engagement and communication.

It accesses the parts of the brain not affected by dementia. These patients respond by whistling, tapping their feet or clapping their hands.

These songs from the past trigger their associations with old memories and family members. It helps them feel their life is worthwhile.

Music reduces stress and agitation by improving moods and encouraging positive interactions. There are many myths about dementia which basically accepts the disease as a part of ageing.

There’s nothing you can do to slow the disease progression once you have it. That’s not true at all.

Pressently, dementia is an incurable disease but thankfully there are steps you can take to make the patient’s life easier. Undoubtedly, music therapy is one of those steps.

About The Author

Kamil Riaz Kara is an HR Professional and Inbound Marketer. He has completed his Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Karachi. Currently, he writes on mental health, fitness and lifestyle. Visit his company blog and check the latest post on Online Dementia Test. Connect him on LinkedIn for more details.

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