Music Therapy: A Peaceful Revolution for Alzheimer’s And Dementia Patients

Music is considered the universal language of mankind and it is believed to have the power to heal. For people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it can be helpful in slowing the symptoms of memory loss. When used appropriately, music therapy may help manage stress, agitation, and mood, and encourage positive reactions, better motor function, and good cognitive function. Music therapy is found to work for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients because well-rehearsed and rhythmic responses require minimal mental or cognitive processing. Instead, they occur in the brain’s motor center, which directly responds to auditory rhythmic signals.

Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia can retain their ability to love and appreciate music, particularly when it comes to singing and playing a rhythm. Even in the later stages of the disease, patients can still listen to and appreciate music because the activity does not require cognitive function. A lot of people associate music with emotions and important events in their life, and these connections can be so powerful that merely hearing a tune may evoke a certain memory. This type of reaction is more likely in patients with prior experience with a type of music or a piece. A song that is found to be soothing for one patient may remind another patient of a tragic event.

Professional and highly trained caregivers carefully observe their patients’ links with music. If a song, tune, or a rhythm evokes an unpleasant response like agitation, distress, increased muscular tension, and grimacing, then it is discontinued. Songs that are typically from the patient’s young adult years (age 18 to 25) are likely to produce the strongest responses, with a higher chance of engagement. Patients with late-stage dementia are responsive to songs and music from their childhood, including folk songs. Unfamiliar music may be beneficial, too, since it does not carry any emotion or memory. Hence, it may be ideal for helping patients develop new responses, like sleep, stress management, and relaxation.