Music is a powerful thing and for many years it has been associated with health benefits, both mentally and psychically. It is often said that it does not matter what culture or background that you are from, music is a way of communicating and everyone loves it. In addition, songs have the ability to trigger emotion and they can be used therapeutically to help many people. In recent years, there have been more studies into how music can have an impact on people that are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. These studies have found an improvement in memory recall, mental performance and generally being a mood enhancer that everyone can enjoy together.
So, let’s have a closer look at how music can benefit people that are living with Dementia so that you can start creating a new playlist for your loved ones.
Music Can be a Mood Enhancer
A person with Dementia can often become confused and frustrated, which leads to stress for the person, going through changes they cannot control. But the great thing about music is that it has the ability to change everyone’s mood instantly and normally for the better. The beat and lyrics can relieve stress and reduce any agitation that someone is feeling, as well as help bonding and positive interactions with other people that are in the room too. After all, singing and dancing are all part of the fun! There are some amazing groups you can attend with a focus on music therapy, such as ‘Singing for the Brain‘ run by the Alzheimer’s Society.
A Way to Share Emotions
For some people that are living with Dementia, it may become difficult to share emotions with their family or caregivers for a number of reasons. This can sometimes develop into feelings of loneliness, which is the last thing that anybody wants to experience. Listening to music on a regular basis can bring comfort and fun to everyone’s lives, as well as encourage dancing and closeness with other people in the process. Music can even be a conversation starter and get everyone chatting and change the atmosphere in a room.
Exercise for the mind
While we don’t really realise this at the time, you are constantly thinking when you are singing. In particular, the left side of the brain is used for singing, while the right side of the brain is used when people are listening to music. The brain processes the music we hear in a way that we don’t realise. But studies have shown that this mind exercise can be beneficial for people living with dementia and require more brain power to be used. This can be a way to engage the brain in a fun way, which can have benefits for memory.
Reminiscing in music
Do you listen to a song and remember details about where you first heard it or a place that you associate with this music? Well, studies link music to triggering memories and this can be beneficial for people that are living with Dementia. Music allows the person to reminisce on familiar songs, and bring back often happier times. When someone hears their favourite song, it can bring them back to a wonderful time in their lives. Perhaps their first dance song at their wedding, or their favourite band where they danced with friends. This can make everyone feel happier and increase confidence, plus alleviate any stress that may be felt from forgetfulness. This all leads to a better quality of life.
A Way to Stay Fit
Exercise is important for everyone to stay fit and healthy and music is a way to encourage everyone to get up and dance! This is especially true in older age, when light exercise is recommended for health. People that are living with Dementia can enjoy dancing to music and are encouraged to move with the beat of the song that is playing. This is not only enjoyable, but it is also a form of exercise. It may even help to build strength and minimise the risk of falls in the future.
Fun and More Fun
This benefit is pretty simple; listening and singing along to music is just good plain fun for everyone! Everybody loves to listen to their favourite singers, as well as music from famous movies and theatre shows. People living with Dementia still have the same enjoyment in music that they once had and keeping an environment of normality can be beneficial for stress and anxiety levels.
So, if you know someone or are a carer to somebody with Dementia, you can consider making music a bigger part of their lives for these benefits. You can create playlists that they can enjoy when they are at home or travelling in the car, whether this includes their favourite singers, bands or from popular musicals from times gone by. In our Dementia friendly gift boxes, we often put lyrics to songs from past decades and you can listen to the playlists online.