Medical researchers are hard at work to find ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And while there have been promising breakthroughs lately, there is still no known cure or treatment.
So families and caregivers have to be resourceful. They have to find tools and resources to help loved ones cope with the symptoms as best they can.
Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease
One such tool is music. Music therapy for Alzheimer’s patients is being used at memory care facilities across the country.
The effects that music has on people is well documented. It can trigger a behavioral or emotional change in people… even those who don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Think about it:
You likely have a favorite song from your teenage years that makes you think of those lazy summer days.
Or a romantic ballad that reminds you of your first love.
Or even a retro song that brings back memories of riding in the backseat of Dad’s car.
Certain music may make you feel tired, sad, or serious. A single song can cause all sort of memories to surface and, as a result, create an emotional response.
How Music Therapy Works
It’s long been knows that music can calm us down and provide relief from stress.
And with recent medical advancements (such as brain scans) we’re learning even more about how music can affect our mental state.
Some research has shown that music engages areas of the brain involved with: paying attention, making predictions and updating events in memory.
Other research has shown that listening to music releases dopamine which sends pleasure signals to the rest of the body.
Music therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease taps into these benefits of listening to music. Listening to music can help to calm a person with Alzheimer’s if they’re stressed or angry. It can help them release built-up tension. Or it can release “happy-hormones” that cause comfort and joy.
The Roth Project: Music and Memories for Seniors
One interesting music therapy program is happening in some Kansas memory care facilities. The program was brought to Kansas by professional musician, and Kansas native, Dave Roth. It was inspired by the award-winning documentary “Alive Inside.”
Dave, whose own mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, loaded an iPod with popular songs from her teenage years and early twenties.
Because, according to the documentary, music from these formative years often has the strongest memory attachments. And that’s true even for seniors in late-stage Alzheimer’s.
“My mother at the time had four words she could say. She had a language of four words” says Dave Roth. “I put the iPod on her for the first time and she started singing lyrics with me.”
Moved by this experience, Dave’s program brings iPods to seniors suffering from dementia. Through music, this program is touching the lives of those with dementia, their families and caregivers.
It does this by helping them manage difficult behaviors, improve communication and cognition and also connect with one another – all through the power of music.
Developing Your Loved One’s Dementia Care Plan
A good memory care facility will constantly be on the lookout for new tools and treatments for dementia care. And many do see the value of music therapy and offer it, along with other enrichment activities, to their residents.
As you evaluate different memory care facilities, see if they offer music programs as part of the enrichment activities for their residents.
At the same time understand that while music therapy may be popular for some seniors, it may not be enjoyable for others.
So find a facility that will work with you, your family, and your senior loved one to create a custom dementia care plan that will improve their quality of life. And one that can help them live rewarding, comfortable, and enriched lives – even while living with dementia.
To find a memory care facility near you and ask about the enrichment activities they offer, search the listings here…