Music connects people to their life history and culture. Music transports people back to happy and sad places such as having attended a concert with friends or as a reminder of a long-gone relative.
Listening to or making music is a wonderful way for you and your loved one to get a mini-vacation from illness as well as to stimulate conversation different from what he or she had for breakfast.
Clinical case studies show when people who have dementia listen to the music of their youth they become animated and may tap their feet to the rhythm or sing. Music therapists say that music therapy improves mood and behavior as well as lessens reliance on behavior-modifying medications.
Research shows that active involvement is more beneficial than listening to music. Singing and playing music, especially when preparing for a performance, improves focus, attention, and memory. Opportunities to socialize and, perhaps even more importantly, share with others, are another important benefit of active participation.
Most people have positive reactions to the popular music of their youth or the kinds of music that reflect their taste and preferences. Therefore don’t assume the person in your care will want to hear Glenn Miller or Bing Crosby. Baby Boomers may prefer Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones. Some people may favor classical music, jazz, or opera.
There are many simple ways to bring music into your loved one’s life. At home, you can download music from the internet and watch or listen to broadcast performances. Together, you can sing, play a musical instrument, or use bells, sticks, and homemade drums to create a home-style rhythm band. Consider inviting family members, friends as well as other caregivers, and their loved ones to participate in a jam session. Serve coffee and cookies and you have an event!
It’s always a nice break to take excursions outside of the home. Combining an early afternoon concert with lunch or an early supper is another way to enjoy a day and enrich a relationship. You can find local and sometimes no-cost events in the calendar section of your local newspaper. Community orchestras and choral groups often give public performances. Senior centers are another place where you can find performances as well as music classes your loved one might enjoy.
Many non-profit organizations, such as the Dementia Society of America, sponsor music programs designed especially for people who have dementia and other disabilities. An internet search is an easy way to find music programs and performances in the community where your loved one lives.
Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.
The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts- that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice, please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org