Music and Dementia

May 5, 2022

Did you know that people with all types of dementia can benefit from music therapy?

Research suggests listening to their favorite music provides emotional and behavioral benefits.   Music also helps activate the part of the brain that is responsible for retaining memory.  So…their happy music can help trigger happy memories.

How does this work?

Memories of music are very often preserved in some kinds of dementia because key brain areas that are connected to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.  Music for seniors seems to have a magical ability that stimulates feelings of well-being by evoking strong memories and emotions.

Music can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression and reduce agitation. This is great news to caregivers because music can help relieve stress for them as well.

Communicate Through Music

While picking your loved one’s music, think of their preferences.  Did they belt out The Beetles music in their time before dementia? Try that.  If they were into classical music, then try playing Mozart or Bach.  If country music was all they listened to, then give them what they love! The residents at our Vancouver senior care home love a wide variety of music.

Set the Stage

If your loved one gets agitated during meals or personal hygiene times, play music or sing to them.  Remember that music should fit the mood.  Before bed, play songs that are familiar and calming.  Getting ready for the day may be a time to play faster-paced, more upbeat songs.

Watch For Overstimulation

Avoid having too many sounds happening at the same time.  Turn off the TV while music is playing.  Maybe close the door to their room to avoid hearing outside noises.  Commercials during music may cause confusion so try streaming their favorite songs.

Get Them Groovin’

Encourage your loved one to clap their hands or tap their feet to the beat.  If they want to dance, dance with them.   Keeping your loved ones moving, even if it’s just hands and feet, can help with energy, circulation, and may improve cognitive function and depression.

Watch For Their Response

It is important to read the enjoyment level of those you care for.  Play the songs often that they really enjoy.  Watch facial or body movements to make sure they are enjoying the music.   If they show any signs of distress change the song. At our Vancouver assisted living home, we have regular musical guests, and seeing the engagement from our residents is so rewarding.

Make Music a Social Event

If being around other people makes your loved one happy take them to a concert in the park.  Maybe your loved one played a musical instrument.  Let them feel the keys of a piano or the strings of a violin.  If they are in a beautiful, assisted living facility like Magnolia see if other residents would like to get together to listen to music.  Encourage them to sing along.  Sometimes being with their  peers helps them to open up and enjoy the time together.

Time For Bed

Music can improve duration and quality of sleep in both healthy elderly people and older people with dementia.  If they like music before bed, make sure it is something that creates a relaxed mood.  Keep it low and slow.

At the end of the day music is powerful. At Magnolia Gardens, we understand that, and take pride in providing regular musical opportunities for our residents.