Benefits of Music Therapy for Dementia Patients

Posted on October 6, 2020

playing violinAlzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be isolating and upsetting for both patients and caregivers. But music therapy could be a promising way to help patients feel more connected and at ease. Numerous studies suggest that music therapy is effective in reducing agitation and depression, while increasing sociability, movement, and cognitive ability. 

What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is an intervention used to address individuals’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs, and can involve singing, playing, listening to, or moving to music. Music therapy can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words, while providing emotional support to patients and families easier.

Music Therapy and Dementia Symptomsimprove quality of life
Music therapy can be particularly powerful for patients with dementia who often have trouble communicating. Dementia patients may not be able tofind the right words to express themselves, and may experience confusion or disorientation. This can lead to frustration, agitation, anxiety, and even depression. But experts believe that music therapy has the potential to mitigate these symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life. 

When patients have the opportunity to listen to their favorite songs, they often become less agitated, more animated, and more relaxed. Remarkably, people who usually have trouble speaking in full sentences may be able to sing along effortlessly. A patient who is typically reserved and reticent may tap her feet or dance to the music. The positive effects can linger even after the headsets are taken away. Patients may become more articulate, and better able to pay attention or answer questions. Sometimes, the music helps people with dementia recall certain memories.

Tips for Caregivers
record playerWhile music therapists can assist patients with dementia in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, those caring for a loved one with dementia at home can also use music to reduce their anxiety and stress, and reconnect in a lighthearted way. Think about what songs may evoke happy memories, and ask family members or friends for suggestions about what types of music to play for your loved one. Play slow, soothing music to calm your loved one during bedtime or mealtime, and more upbeat music to boost your loved one’s mood when they are feeling down. Encourage your loved one to clap along, or dance if possible. Surely you and your loved one will cherish the care-free moments you spend singing or moving to the music together.

To learn more about music therapy and dementia, we recommend the documentary film, Alive Inside

To find a music therapist near you in Massachusetts, please visit the American Music Therapy Association’s website.


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