How does music help with Dementia?

Music is a great way for helping with dementia because it is linked with emotion and this can be a very powerful tool when you use it right. Everyone loves music and we respond to it from all ages from a baby to an adult. Music gets reactions out of babies before they are able to talk and this can do the same in adults when verbal abilities may be lost. In this article we are going to be talking about how music can help with dementia, looking into reasons why and benefits.

What happens when we listen to music and how does the brain respond?

Music is able to travel and access different parts of the brain that just talking alone can, it’s ‘pitch, rhythm, meter and timbre are processed in many different parts of the brain, from the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus to the parietal lobe’. This means that it is easier for music to communicate and engage with someone who has dementia whether they can speak or not!

If you want to read more about how music affects the brain, take a look at this PowerPoint below and you can read all about the different areas of the brain and how music affects them in more detail. – Your Brain on Music

Someone with dementia might like soothing music as it can help to bring out an emotional reaction from them. This also means that if you are playing the music that means a lot to them like their wedding song they will recognise it and it will help to de-stress them and they will calm down a bit.

What are some of the benefits of listening to music for dementia?

  • Helps to reduce social isolation which means that the person feels more involved in society and feels like they have contact wth others
  • Can help people with dementia to express their feelings better compared to talking
  • Helps to allow someone with dementia to connect with others more by listening to music, especially when they cannot understand talking.
  • Can help to encourage people with dementia to get up and get moving which is good because it helps their mental health and well being as well as enabling them to have some physical exercise.
  • Finally, music will help to change peoples mood, meaning that someone diagnosed with dementia may feel more comfortable with you helping them to the toilet if you are playing soothing music to lessen any distress for them.

Choosing the right music

Making sure that you are picking music that the person likes is key because it will help them to feel more relaxed and they may also sing along if they remember the words. Look into popular musicians from their youth and use this to play the music they may have listened to when they were younger. Making sure that they are enjoying the music is important, so make sure you keep a close eye on how they react so that you can see whether they like the music or not. If they seem upset, uncomfortable or distressed then this is a sign that you should turn the music off because they are not enjoying it and next time try another kind of music to see if they prefer that.

Once you have found a song or type of music that they like watching to see what they do and try to join in so they feel as though they are communicating with you. For example; if they are humming along then you try humming along too and see how they react to you joining in. If they are tapping their feet then you do it too so that they can feel more connected!

Important points to keep in mind

When starting to play the music, make sure that it is gentle and quiet so that the person is eased into this process slowly, to further help ease into the process, the music should also be the focal point with no distractions. This also means that you can tailor the sound of the music and adjust it accordingly from the emotions from your loved one. As time goes on trying this method, you will gradually be able to up the volume of the music but try and keep it low so that it is not causing any distress at first.

Not only can music bring out positive emotions in people but it can also bring out negative ones, so make sure that you are keeping a close eye on any signs of discomfort in the other person and turn off the music is this occurs. Sadness may come out of the music from your loved one after having a strong memory so just sitting with the person during this time may be the best response.

In conclusion, music can help to bring about positive memories in people who have dementia so it is a really good way to communicate with them. Negative emotions could also come out from listening to music so make sure that you are paying close attention to the expressions that your loved one is going off when listening and turn the music off if any stress occurs. Remember that methods like this may not always work for everyone so if you have any queries and would like to know more then please don’t hesitate to call us and we will be happy to help.