How Music can Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay!

by Feb 16, 2016

Today, music, singing and dancing is being used to treat patients who have Alzheimer’s. Several studies show that music may be an excellent way to treat people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While the effect of music on Alzheimer’s patients has been known for a while, only recent studies have been able to explain why there’s such a positive correlation between music and Alzheimer’s. Even the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has an entire section of their website dedicated to the positive impact of music therapy. If you’re interested in preventing Alzheimer’s, continue reading.

How Music Helps Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients

After singing classics and show tunes, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are able to recall emotions and memories. They’ve also shown improved mental performance. Some patients were even able to remember the names of their friends and family after just a few sessions of music therapy. People who are led through songs have better recall than those who simply listen to the songs. There are many places that believe in the effect of music and Alzheimer’s use music therapy, including the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto and the Veterans’ Home in Vermont.

Reasons Why Music Improves Brain Activity

1. Music brings up emotions, which then recall memories. This is possible in even advanced Alzheimer’s patients. Music is able to bring back feelings from moments in life, much more so than anything else can. When music is paired with day-to-day activities, patients are able to get into a rhythm that helps them remember associated memories. Over time, this can greatly improve cognitive function.

2. In dementia patients, two of the last cognitive abilities are musical appreciation and musical aptitude. Since these two things remain for a long time after many other abilities are gone, music is one of the best ways to reach the person who’s suffering.

3. Music is able to bring both physical and emotional closeness, two things that may be difficult for Alzheimer’s patients. Especially in the later stages of dementia, people often lose the ability to share their emotions with their loved ones and caregivers. With music, though, they can dance and be ambulatory. Dancing can then lead to physical closeness, like hugging, kissing and touching. This closeness makes the patient feel secure and can even bring up old memories.

shutterstock_2302148864. Singing has a lot of benefits for Alzheimer’s patients as it activates both sides of the brain. Singing itself activates the left side of the brain, but listening to music also sparks activity in the brain’s right side. Plus, watching singing classes can activate the visual parts of the brain. Since so much of the brain is stimulated at once, patients are able to use much more brain power than they usually do.

5. Music is also able to help with mood and stress in Alzheimer’s patients. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music is able to improve mood, manage stress, encourage positive interactions and improve motor function. When it comes to late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, music is able to calm some people and ease their agitation.

In order to encourage an Alzheimer’s patient to engage with music, it’s a good idea to show them musicals they once loved, such as “The Sound of Music” or “Carousel.” Showing them a familiar musical may help to jog their memory. The more familiar they once were with the songs, the more likely it is that the music will help them. Additionally, some treatment centers now host dance classes and choirs in order to get patients involved in music therapy.

6 More Tips for Using Music With an Alzheimer’s Patient

If you believe that there’s a positive connection between music and Alzheimer’s, you may be wondering how to use music to help your loved one.

1. Think about the preferences of your loved one. What sort of music did they used to enjoy? What type of music do they seem to most enjoy now? What music will hopefully evoke memories from the happiest times in their life? You may need to get other family members and friends involved. Then, create a playlist with the songs that you think will be most familiar and helpful.

2. Set the mood before turning on the music. Set soothing music during key points of the person’s routine. For example, you may want to play a certain playlist during dinner each night or during their morning routine. Then, when you want to boost their mood, play more uplifting and energetic music.

3. Try to avoid overstimulation. When playing music for the patient, try to eliminate any competing noises. Shut the TV and the door, and don’t play music that can be interrupted by commercials. Also, make sure that you set the volume of the music based on the patient’s hearing ability. If they can’t hear well, you’ll need to turn the music up louder than normal.

4. Encourage the patient to move while listening to music. Help them to clap along to the music or tap their feet. If it’s possible, it’s also a good idea to dance with your loved one. Music and dementia isn’t the only positive combination. Dancing helps dementia patients, too.

5. Sing along to the music. When you and the patient sing along to the music together, you do two things: you help boost their mood and you also improve your relationship. Studies show that music memory is different from other types of memory; singing can help stimulate certain memories.

6. Pay attention to how your loved one responds to the music. If they seem to like certain songs more than others, play them more frequently. On the other hand, if they react negatively to a song or type of music, it’s best to choose something else.

Using Music to Prevent Dementia

Consider music and dementia when figuring out how to prevent Alzheimer’s, too. According to CNN, the number of Americans who are 65 years old or older who have Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by 2050. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that that the cost of dementia in the U.S. will be $1.2 trillion by that time. Preventing Alzheimer’s has a lot to do with keeping the brain active. The more active the brain stays, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to hold back the symptoms of dementia. Everything from music to being engaged with hobbies and even learning a new language can help.

Ultimately, the main reason why music is able to help Alzheimer’s patients is because the best way to treat and prevent the disease is to stay engaged and active.