Music Therapy for Dementia

Over the last many years therapists have been using and finding increasingly effective, music therapy for dementia sufferers. With the ongoing stages of dementia, many seniors find the slow decent into memory loss and the difficulty to perform simple tasks that they are certain were at one time second nature, a frustrating reality to deal with. Family members feel helpless in their ability to keep the one they love from ‘slipping away’ or from experiencing exasperation, loneliness and depression.

These emotions can then lead to anger and aggression on the part of the dementia sufferer. They don’t even completely understand why they are frustrated and angry and this only serves to make matters worse. Family wants to reassure them, encourage them and help them, but loss of memory contributes to feeling fearful, threatened and distrusting of everyone. The spiral can be long and affect so very many people, ruining relationships and the happy equilibrium that keeps a family happy.

Therapists have discovered, however, that we all have a ‘music memory‘ that seems to function well even in spite of a debilitating illness like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Seniors suffering from this disease can find a much needed respite with music when it taps this memory and suddenly seems as familiar as the faces around them used to be.

Couple the familiar tunes with words that come flooding back on cue and you’ll see the smiles return to the face that has finally found joy again. Some latter stage Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers, that may seem almost catatonic by this stage, have been known to move, tap, hum or in some manner show ‘life’ when familiar music and songs were played.

Long term care facilities such as nursing homes have experienced success with sing alongs for senior residents. Activity directors and nurses have been delighted to find some dementia patients respond to the music. Therapists have found ways to use music instruments and sing alongs as effective tools to communicate with the elderly that struggle with this.

Where the disease has advanced beyond too much responsiveness from the patients, the familiar music and songs have still proven to give some elderly enjoyment enough that they tap their feet or twitch their fingers to the beat of the music. Those that are able to still sing along have had respite with sing along DVD’s and enjoyed group sing alongs in their care facilities.

Although music therapy for dementia sufferers has been around for many years, it is still in some ways being tested for its effectiveness on various forms and various stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. But even friends and loved ones can use music and song as therapy for their dementia sufferer still at home.

Return to Articles page.