How Music Helps Dementia Sufferers

As incidence rates of dementia rise, ways of alleviating the symptoms are becoming increasingly more available to sufferers and their families. Research suggests that listening to music or singing along with a song can provide emotional and behavioural benefits for individuals who suffer from dementia.

People of all ages, have a connection to music and listening to special sings and favourite music can bring back old memories and feelings. Whether it is 60s soul music, opera or show songs, the music helps to soothe and stimulate long forgotten memories.

Music and Dementia

Music

Encouraging sufferers to listen to and sing along with music is becoming an increasingly key feature when it comes to dementia care. Studies believe that the brain reacts to music on some level until the end of life because musical memory is quite often retained when other parts of the brain and memories are lost.

There are a number of ways for individuals who suffer from dementia to enjoy music, programmes and organisations such as Singing for the Brain, Music for Life and Live Music Now make music accessible for care homes across the UK. The charity is known as Playlist for Life also encourages dementia patients and their family to create musical playlists filled with music that is special to them, this could include wedding songs, memorable events, or simply a song that they loved to sing along to.

Singing For The Brain

Singing For The Brain is run by the Alzheimers Society, they have groups up and down the country, and their aim is to help dementia patients through music. They intend to boost confidence, self-esteem and quality of life through song. Singing for the Brain involves people with dementia, their family and carers with interactive singing sessions.

The group was founded by Chreanne Montgomery-Smith, when she worked in a nursing home she noticed how dementia patients had positive reactions to music that was played. She says:

“One of the activities was a quiz which involved playing familiar tunes, the first week nobody song, the second week a few people joined in. By the third week, everybody was singing along. One lady who didn’t know her own name knew every song in the quiz and sang them all.”

Her comments reinforce the research that says music stays with the brain when other memories don’t.

How to Help a Dementia Patient Through Music

If you want to help a dementia patient through the power of music there are a number of things to consider:

Preferences – think about the music that the individual enjoys, music that evokes happy memories should be used, you can ask friends and family members to suggest songs that can be used in a playlist.
Set The Mood – if you are looking to calm your loved one during meal time or hygiene routine, play or sing a song that is soothing. If you are looking to improve the mood, play a song that is upbeat and faster paced.
Don’t Overstimulate – should you decide to play some music, make sure you eliminate other noises. Turn the television off, shut the door, and have the volume at a level that is suitable to your loved ones hearing.
Encourage Some Movement – encourage your loved one to tap their feet to the beat, or to clap along. You can consider dancing too if it is possible.
Sing Along – singing along with your loved one will boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
Watch The Response – watch the response of your loved one, if they tend to enjoy certain songs be sure to play them more often. If there is a negative reaction to a certain song or type of music, choose something else.