Music and dementia: the power of music
Music uplifts us. It inspires us. It connects us to each other.
It also connects us to ourselves, linking to positive emotions, improving cognition, and stimulating memory – each crucial for people living with dementia.
Studies indicate that music can trigger emotional memories, help maintain speech and language, and even encourage reminiscence.
But how else does music help with dementia?
What is Music Therapy for Dementia?
Music therapy is uniquely flexible and can be tailored to the specific tastes and needs of an individual.
It’s also a highly valuable tool, offering proven benefits to health and wellbeing.
As such, music therapy for dementia can take many forms.
Whether participation in a choir, playing a musical instrument, or simply listening to a favourite song, music therapy for dementia can serve as an emotionally rewarding, cognitively stimulating activity.
Effects of Music Therapy on Dementia
Of late, there have been numerous studies exploring the effects of music on dementia. And some of the findings have been, well… remarkable.
For example, research has shown that music lights up parts of the brain that cannot be stimulated by anything else.
That’s right; music can literally go where other forms of therapy cannot. Amazing, isn’t it?
Of course, that’s not to lessen the importance of those other forms, but to highlight the unique power of music.
And in the instance of music and dementia, it’s more than just a neat factoid – it’s a highly valuable tool in addressing the effects of dementia; able to improve the health and wellbeing of those living with the condition.
But what are some of the specific effects? And how do they help?
Improving Health and Wellbeing
Living with dementia can be disheartening.
But music can help by triggering the release of endorphins – our natural feel-good hormones – resulting in an overall reduction of anxiety, depression, and more general agitation.
Better Attention and Concentration
Music stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously. And this carries major benefits for people living with dementia.
You see, when both sides of the brain are stimulated, our attention span lengthens, and our focus sharpens. It’s why so many listen to music whilst working or studying – even if they don’t realise it.
Practically, this means that by listening to – or even playing – music, people with dementia can see a dramatic improvement in their ability to concentrate.
It’s often noted that our sense of smell is most closely tied to memory, able the transport us to specific times and places.
But music possesses this power, too.
In fact, music has been proven to aid the brain in retrieving specific memories and the emotions associated with them.
For example, a song played at someone’s wedding can trigger vivid memories of their first dance.
Likewise, a chart-topper from someone’s youth can bring forth memories of summers gone by and the people they were spent with.
As such, it’s important to be mindful of any songs that may trigger negative emotions in a person.
Enjoyment & Entertainment
Aside from the more cognitive links between music and dementia, it’s worth noting the profound improvement to a person’s overall wellbeing that participating in music can have.
Whether it’s the uplifting effect of singing in a choir or playing in a band, or the understated joy of listening to an old favourite on a lazy afternoon, listening to music touches us in ways that no other medium can.
A valuable social activity. An opportunity for reflection. Comfort on a difficult day; music can be each of these things at any given time, and that is a highly valuable notion for people living with dementia.
Music and Dementia: Better Together
Music can have a profound impact on dementia – providing a platform for self-expression and reconnecting people to their pasts.
It’s a universal language, understood by everyone without the need for so much as a word.
And by improving health and wellbeing, stimulating memory, and reducing anxiety, it’s a powerful tool for combating the symptoms of dementia.
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