A Healthy Heartbeat: How Music Therapy Help Elders with Dementia

How can music therapy help improve elders with dementia?

  • Recollection of happy memories
  • Improved mood
  • More self-control
  • Helps manage pain
  • Peak interest
  • Encourage them to become vocal again
  • Encourages social interaction

Having an elder with dementia is one of the hardest things that a family can go through. This condition causes seniors to lose memories of the people around them, as well as who they are. This is difficult for family and friends for many reasons, primarily due to the face that a person they love can no longer recall who they are.

However, all is not lost. Music therapy is often used to help bring at least some memories back. Even dementia caregivers in Chicago attest to the benefits the music therapy can bring.

Music and Dementia

Music therapy is the use of music to evoke memories, sensations, and feelings in a patient. This type of therapy has shown to be particularly effective in older adults with dementia. Kimmo Lehtonen, PhD, professor of education at the University of Turku in Finland, often uses wartime songs to help evoke lively memories in the minds of older adults. This is because music can latch on to memories and unconscious emotions. These can be accessed when the musical movements of that time are heard again. For patients with dementia, music is a way for them to remember who they once were.

In music therapy sessions, elders can express themselves individually to a psychiatrist or as a group to each other about the feelings and memories they experience again when they hear certain music. These sessions can also involves elders listening to live performances or interact and help musicians to create music. All of these also help to improve the quality of senior life. More importantly, these kinds of sessions empower the elderly to step out of their isolation.

Essentially, music allows elders to be more active physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially which improves their quality of life. This type of therapy has been shown to improve physical and mental factors in a senior, including:

  • Recalled memories
  • Positive moods
  • Improved self-control
  • Pain and discomfort management
  • Interest and mental stimulation
  • Vocal fluency
  • Continuous and rhythmic movement
  • Social interaction

man doing piano

How Sound Can Bring Back Memories

When those with dementia have no means to communicate, music is a great way to interpret their literally-unspeakable words. This is good news for their loved ones because the inability to understand the yearning of a dementia patient for basic needs and understanding can push them further into isolation. By subjecting them to music therapy, it will encourage them to speak up especially since singing enables dialogue. Listening and making music ‘ if the elder was a musician ‘ can reemploy cognitive skills lost in dementia.

In addition, many programs are available for those looking to learn how to make music at a late age. These are offered by music education venues and private teachers.

It is also a great avenue for therapists to reach deep down to the soul of their patients and it is said to be the most engaging stimuli for elders. With the strong effect of music on thinking and moods, certain songs remind people of memories because of the feelings that went along with the song and which memory they relate the most to it. This is what allows trained therapists to help their patients because they know exactly how to stimulate them. These therapists do this by making them hear music that brings them back to the happiest times in their lives. This brings out the happiest version of themselves in their present bodies.

Music is a gateway to the lost memories of a patient with dementia. When these memories are accessed, elders can make their way back to their original selves. Some experts say that music can also prevent dementia from affecting people in the first place. Consider music therapy sessions for your elder for the sake of their health.

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