Dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder that is accompanied by memory loss, frequent confusion, and mood swings. Taking care of a dementia patient can be emotionally and physically draining, but this can be alleviated by looking into therapies to help someone suffering from cognitive impairment.
Music Therapy and Dementia
Fortunately, there are several dementia-friendly activities that will soothe the pain and disorientation that dementia patients go through. Music therapy is considered a clinical intervention that is able to relay a number of benefits to people suffering from memory loss. This is mainly because areas of the brain that store musical memories are relatively untouched by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
As it is, music is touted as a universal language. The different notes and tunes can allude to a certain long-lost memory in a dementia patient, serving as the perfect soother to their disorientated and muffled state of mind.
Let’s look at the benefits of music therapy for dementia patients in detail.
1. Music Helps Evoke Memories
The biggest woe of dementia is loss of memory, but fortunately, music still reserves the power to evoke memories in people going through this cognitive disorder. It is commonly touted that music is the last thing we forget, which is why music therapy is highly recommended for dementia patients.
Despite the severity of brain impairment even in the last stages of dementia, certain activities are still safely tucked in the brain's motor center, including the act of enjoying music. This is collectively known as Procedural Memory (PM), which manages to remain even when Explicit Memory (EM), i.e., knowledge of events, fades away.
Dementia patients may not know who they are, but they will somewhere still remember the fact that they enjoy music, and this will help evoke memories of their yesteryears.
2. Music Helps Relieve Stress
Music has a therapeutic effect on our bodies, inducing calming effects. As a result, music therapy helps to relieve stress, a common occurrence in people with dementia. A research study at Stanford University equates listening to music to meditation, which speaks volumes of the soothing effects of music.
Caregivers of dementia patients should focus on playing relaxing and rhythmic tunes like classical music, which is able to ease the anxiety dementia patients experience as a result of not being able to remember anything.
3. Music Can Encourage Bonding
Dementia patients often withdraw from their loved ones due to their reduced ability to recognize their family and friends. This can be very disheartening for the patients and families of these patients. Music therapy acts as the perfect intervention, encouraging bonding between the two parties.
Music allows dementia patients to tap into their emotions as they are unable to do otherwise. This will evoke fond memories and can increase the chances of familiar actions like hugging or kissing. Families of dementia patients can play familiar songs to connect with dementia patients at a deeper level.
4. Music Allows Self-Expression
It is no hidden fact that art is a form of self-expression. This is why dementia patients are encouraged into painting and coloring. However, if that requires effort, music therapy is the perfect way to allow dementia patients to express themselves since they can’t put their feelings into words.
Music is so powerful because it allows people to feel things without having experienced a life event that led to that emotion. So even if dementia patients don’t remember old events, they are still able to feel things when hearing music, which might coax a hug, a smile, or a dance out of them.
5. Music Can Induce a Good Night’s Sleep
Science has explored and established the relationship between music and insomnia. Music therapy is able to alleviate signs of insomnia, inducing a sound night’s sleep. Of course, the type of music you play is of importance here.
Dementia patients often experience insomnia and disturbed sleep due to their high levels of stress and frustration. With soothing music playing at the back, they would be in a better position to calm their nerves and muscles, signaling the body to relax and enjoy a comfortable sleep.
6. Music Can Improve Mood
Dementia patients often go through mood swings, which make it difficult for their caregivers to manage them. It can also be quite taxing for dementia patients to undergo such drastic mood fluctuations, due to which music therapy can be of immense service.
Since music requires little to no mental processing, dementia patients can enjoy it with their impaired cognitive abilities. Music helps balance stress-related hormones like cortisol, ultimately improving mood and general interest in life.
Music Therapy for Dementia
Dementia patients experience depression, insomnia, and frustration as a result of their impaired cognitive function. Try out music therapy which helps to alleviate the symptoms and side-effects of dementia, even restoring their interest in life and making it easier for their friends and family to communicate and take care of them.
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