The link between music and patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s was established many decades ago, yet the effects of the former on the latter have not been substantiated until now.
A recent study discovered that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can recall memories and emotions and experience improved mental performance after singing classic hits and music from their favourite movies and musicals. The study also revealed that music can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, and lessen agitation.
Dementia patients are not the only people who can benefit from the music. Caregivers benefit from it too because music can be used to reduce anxiety, lighten the mood, and offers a means to connecting with loved ones who suffer from the disorder.
Linda Maguire, the principal author of the study stated, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.” She suggests that because musical aptitude and appreciation remain long after other crucial skills have passed, music is a great way to reach beyond the disease and connect with the person.
The following are 5 tips our caregivers for the elderly in Vancouver and the surrounding areas have compiled for using music to assist with dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
1. Care Recipient’s Preferences
The care recipients’ preferences should never be discounted. What kind of music did they enjoy listening to? What music evokes positive memories and helps relieve stress, anxiety, and agitation? Involve the care recipient in selecting the music by asked them to suggest the songs and playlists first.
2. Avoid Overstimulation and Confusion
Having too many media playing in the background is a great example of overstimulation. When playing the music that the care recipient loves, it is recommended to turn off competing noises, such as those on TV, in the hallway, on the radio etc. You may also want to consider setting the volume of the music based on their hearing ability. As well, music with commercials and ads like those you see on television on YouTube should be avoided as they may cause confusion for the care recipients.
3. Encourage Movement
Movements, such as clapping, dancing, and swaying, add to the enjoyment of listening to music for care recipients. It provides an outlet for the anxiety, agitation, and restlessness associated with dementia. As well, it can provide a sense of accomplishment, calmness and reconnection. Reinforce the dance/moves with a hug or kiss to help bring added securitryt and fire to more memories.
4. Sing Along
Care recipients do not have to listen to music alone. Join them! Sing along! Converse with them about the good times! Spending quality time with Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients reduces feelings of depression and allows them to maintain a social life that they once enjoyed. Music can bring out emotions and feeling in people that might not normally come out. Music can give people words to say when they may not know how to effectively communicate their feelings.
5. Sing It!
If you do not play recorded music, you can simply sing the tunes and lyrics. Even singing one or two songs will lift spirits – for everyone. It is a great way to establish a positive mood and communicate that you are someone “good. Choose well known and simple songs such as You Are My Sunshine, My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean, or I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. These songs often evoke the strongest response from people, bringing a powerful connection.
“When words fail, music speaks.” (Hans Christian Anderson)
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