The Older Americans Act of 1992 defined music therapy as “the use of musical or rhythmic interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to accomplish the restoration, maintenance, or improvement of social or emotional functioning, mental processing, or physical health of an older individual.” Music can boost one’s mood and bring comfort in times of sadness, evoking feelings of positivity and happiness.
For seniors in the mid- to later stages of dementia, music has been identified as a proven means to help recall memories and feelings from the past. This is due to the fact that music takes little to no cognitive processing; even those in the late stages of the disease are still able to engage with familiar music, especially singing or rhythmic playing.
For this reason, many of the memory care neighborhoods in today’s continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are now utilizing music therapy as a successful dementia treatment program.
How Music Therapy Benefits Seniors with Dementia
When working with residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, music therapists have reported amazing results. This innovative, alternative treatment can reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues while also providing a way to connect with loved ones after verbal communication skills have declined. When residents listen to personal favorite songs, some are able to remember names of family members or even their own names. Plus, they become more socially engaged in their surroundings and may even start speaking again.
Some of the main benefits of music therapy for dementia include an impact on:
- Cognitive Skills: Music therapy has a positive effect on overall thought processing and memory retention. In fact, in those with dementia, music from childhood or the young adult years has proved effective in obtaining a positive response and increased involvement in the outside world. This is because many people associate music with past events, so hearing just one song can evoke a memory of a time long since passed.
- Physical Skills: Generally speaking, with music comes movement. Even if an individual is no longer mobile, music inspires movement. Whether through dancing, toe tapping, clapping, or head bobbing, getting the blood flowing again can promote coordination and improve endurance.
- Communication Skills: Music therapy for dementia sufferers can give them a voice again. Many individuals are able to speak clearer, answer questions and make decisions after music therapy. Plus, it can help slow the deterioration of speech and language skills; studies have shown that even when one loses the ability to speak, the ability to recognize and even hum or sing a favorite song remains.
- Social Engagement: Music encourages bonding with others, whether it’s other residents, the professional staff or loved ones. This helps alleviate the feelings of isolation and depression many individuals with dementia can face.
- Reducing Stress: Listening to music can help calm an individual and ease some aggressive behaviors or agitation.
Plus, playing slow songs like ballads or lullabies in the evening hours can effectively relax dementia sufferers and prepare them for bed.
Is your life plan community utilizing the power of music therapy for residents with dementia?
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