How can music help dementia patients?
There are expected to be over 1 million people with dementia in the UK by the end of 2021 and with no long term cures currently available, additional holistic ways of providing comfort and respite from the disease are becoming more and more accessible.
One of those is music therapy.
We know how powerful music can be – whether it is a heavy rock track, a bit of 60s soul or something to dance to from the 80s, music has a way of creating a soundtrack to our lives, taking us back in time and reliving those memories all over again.
This is why music therapy is such a big thing for those suffering from dementia. According to research, the brains auditory system is fully functioning at 16 weeks, meaning that when developing, your musical brain is already kicking into action, absorbing all of the sounds around you. This continues throughout life, linking various sounds to memories and other senses such as taste and smell.
Where to start
Playing music from the era of the dementia patient is a good place to start. Those songs and styles will have deep-seated roots in their brains, transporting them back. You might not get much of a reaction the first time, but do look out for toe-tapping, finger drumming or even chair dancing if singing doesn’t come naturally.
If there’s no reaction, don’t be dismayed – continue playing music over a period of weeks to help try and tap into some memories.
Create a playlist
Spend some time and create a playlist to play for your loved one with dementia – include emotive songs such as wedding songs, songs from concerts they attended or from bands/artists you know they liked and grow the list from there. Speak to other friends and family members to see if they have any suggested songs to add.
You can also look at some of the biggest songs from certain decades that would have been very prominent and add those in.
Music is a source of comfort for many, and with many people with dementia and their families, the road ahead is long. Playing music throughout their journey could help to calm them when they are feeling angry or confused and comfort them when they are sad. Equally, music is great for providing a soundtrack for dancing when they feel a little more energetic and want to get up and move around a little.
More and more families are also using music as a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical solution when it comes to end of life palliative care; the music can act as a comfort and support to everyone in a deeply upsetting time.