Music is one of the ways we communicate
Research is confirming an idea long held by those who work and care for dementia patients: music has the power to shift mood, manage stress, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements. It can provide a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.
This happens because rhythmic and other responses require little cognitive and mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.
Many individuals with Alzheimer’s can learn to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening and playing music. By pairing it with everyday activities, your loved one can develop a routine that helps them recall memory, as well as working to improve cognitive ability over time.
Incorporating music into a treatment plan:
- Use familiar songs to help soothe and take the edge off difficult moments. Make sure that the songs you select do not bring up bad memories and are not connected to sad events of the past.
- Identify music that is familiar and enjoyable to your loved one. If possible, let them choose the music.
- Compile a playlist of favorite recordings, which can be used for memory recall. Singing a familiar song together can offer a welcome distraction and help a person “snap out” of a repetitive action or behavior.
- Encourage your loved one to move along to the music to develop a routine (clapping, dancing, playing).
- Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion (iTunes, YouTube channels, playlist building apps).
- Song sheets or a karaoke player can allow your loved one to follow along and sing to old-time favorites.
- You can use music to influence your loved one’s mood. A softer piece of music can help create a calm environment while a more upbeat song can uplift spirits.
- Playing animated, happy songs in the morning can help with getting your loved one started.