Memory Mondays: Music and Alzheimer’s

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Music has the power to enrich anyone’s life, and especially the lives of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Some might say that music and Alzheimer’s go hand in hand. Even as the dementia progresses, music allows for self-expression, engagement and more.

Research suggests the main areas in the brain linked to musical memory aren’t highly affected by Alzheimer’s, according to Mayo Clinic. In fact, musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities among those with dementia, a recent study notes. This makes music a compelling way to reach the person beyond the disease.

When you do, you’ll discover the effects of music on people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are profound. Music has been found to relieve stress, anxiety and depression and reduce agitation. It may promote physical and emotional closeness, and singing along significantly stimulates the brain.

Music proves mutually beneficial, too, as caregivers experience less stress and a new way to connect with their loved ones. The latter is especially true among those who have difficulty communicating.

When experimenting with how music and Alzheimer’s interact, song selection is key, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. For one, the music should be familiar to the person with Alzheimer’s, and you might even let the person choose the music on their own, if possible. A few other tips for making the most of music include:

– Play music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, as it might be on Youtube or Pandora. The interruptions may cause confusion.

– Create an environment based on the music selected. Tranquil tunes may result in a calm setting, and a faster-paced song that evokes childhood memories can boost spirits.

– Clap and dance along to add to the experience.

– Eliminate other sounds by closing windows and doors, and keep the music volume at an appropriate level.

With the right music selected, researchers say positive responses from those with Alzheimer’s unfolds in several ways. Music that goes along with everyday activities, for example, allows someone with Alzheimer’s to connect certain tasks to certain music, which improves cognitive ability over time. There may also be less of a need for antipsychotic drugs because of music.

In The Terraces at The Clare, music therapy is incorporated into regular programming for skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care residents. And there’s no doubt that we see how tremendously our residents benefit, especially those who have Alzheimer’s.

At any rate, exploring the relationship between music and Alzheimer’s is critical for care. You just might encounter reactions and responses you previously believed to be unattainable.