Do you believe in the power of music? Is there a certain genre you like to listen to when you want to relax, and another when you want to have fun? I personally believe that music has a way of reaching deep within a person, and in some cases soothing the soul, relaxing the mind and often lifting one’s spirit. Research says that for Alzheimer’s patients, music can be good medicine. While research on the neurological effects of music therapy is in its infancy, what is known is that listening to music activates a number of regions in the brain. Scientists say the brain responds to music by creating new pathways around damaged areas.
Think about it, usually after about 20 minutes of listening to music, there are observable effects, such as singing, foot-tapping, and clapping. The positive effects of music therapy sessions have been knowing to last for several hours after the session has ended. It’s been said that music is to the mind what exercise is to the body. When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Most people associate music with important events and emotions and the connection can be so strong that in hearing the song long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.
If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, consider these tips:
- Think about your loved one’s preferences. What kind of music does he or she enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in their life? If you’re unsure, involve family members by asking them to suggest songs.
- Set the mood. To calm a loved one during mealtime or the morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that’s soothing. Use more upbeat tunes to boost your loved one’s mood.
- Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that is commercial-free as the interruption can cause confusion.
- Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap or tap his or her feet to the beat. Encourage dancing if possible.
- Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
- Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often.
Keep in mind that music might not affect your loved one’s cognitive status or quality of life, but it can’t hurt it either and if nothing else it provides time well-spent bonding. Pay close attention to facial expressions to help those who cannot verbally communicate. To be effective, music therapy must be tailored to the functional capacity of each individual patient. If you are unsure of how to get the most out of music therapy for your loved one, consult the health and wellness counselor at your community.