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How Music Therapy Can Benefit Dementia Patients

How Music Therapy Could Benefit Dementia Patients and You as a Family

At our specialised dementia care homes North Devon we are proud of our outstanding reputation for offering the very best in leading dementia care. Through this, and our collaboration with Share Music South West we have been privileged to see the positive effects of music therapy for older people with dementia.

Music as a Key to the Past

Music has a magical quality when we consider it a tool for unlocking the past, and accessing positive emotion and stability – things which are much needed for dementia patients. Before they learn to speak, babies will respond and interact with music. It is in many ways, the language of the soul, developing before our ability to talk.

We see the same distinct nature of music staying familiar and encouraging when language and memory deterioration occur in dementia. Whilst words may be forgotten, music continues as a constant.

Music Therapy Dementia

This unique quality that we see in music therapy for older people with dementia is possible because the brain uses different parts for music and language. Even if speech has been totally lost, music can still access a response. This is particularly true when we use music which is familiar, was found to be uplifting in the past, or soothing.

Music therapy has no set model. Elements of music therapy can be incorporated in family life as you adjust to caring for someone with dementia. For example, playing music from their wedding, or from a time when their children were young. However, a music therapy session run professionally will focus on the needs of the individual and their stage of dementia. There will be improvisation, reminiscence, and acceptance of emotion.

The Benefits of Music Therapy

As we’ve said, music therapy can be incorporated into everyday life, as well as being offered directly such as the Share Music regular sessions at our dementia care homes in North Devon. The benefits are wide-ranging but include:

  • Calm: Dementia can often give rise to feelings of anxiety due to confusion. Music can restore calm and equilibrium by soothing and offering something familiar in a largely alien world. This may prove particularly useful at key times of the day, such as personal care.
  • Elevated mood: It is not uncommon, unfortunately, for dementia to go hand in hand with degrees of depression. Uplifting music can help alleviate emotional sadness and despair.
  • Expression of feeling: As language becomes harder to access it’s easy to let a dementia patient slip into their own enclosed world where feelings become locked and detrimental. One of the benefits of music therapy is that it can aid expressing emotion when language is lost.
  • Socialisation: Again, as the language becomes more of a challenge socialisation can become more of a challenge as well, yet it is essential for the well-being of everyone. Music becomes the common denominator when social skills are struggling. Our music therapy sessions are intensely sociable, and much looked forward to by staff and residents alike.
  • Movement: Using music and encouraging dementia patients to use percussion instruments or keyboards to ‘make a sound’ a positive by-product is they are encouraged to move. They may also find themselves moved to sway or dance, according to their abilities, which can also have an immensely positive effect on their overall wellbeing.

When and How Should You Use Music Therapy?

You can incorporate elements of music therapy into the daily life of an individual with dementia, and any input is beneficial. It’s particularly useful if you know what music the person liked before their decline into dementia, but also take the time to look up which music would have been prevalent in their younger years.

What’s important is to be in tune with the dementia patient. Take their cue as to whether they are finding it pleasurable or if it is making them uncomfortable.

It is immensely beneficial for dementia patients to be able to access the sociability aspect of music therapy when it is offered in small groups. This benefit is apparent at our music therapy sessions in our dementia care homes. Being able to offer specialist dementia therapy such as this is rarely possible within the home setting and can often become the driving force for realising that a loved one will be exceptionally well cared for and benefit from being in a dementia care facility.

If you’d like to hear more about the positive effects of music therapy for older people with dementia, and find out how it can be just one aspect of specialist dementia care that offers safety and calm, then please make an appointment to come and visit us on 01769 572510.

Music therapy from Share Music is offered alongside other specialist reminiscence therapy as well as specialist resources such as dementia-friendly furniture and cutting-edge dementia lighting. We’ve seen the positive impact this level of care has in aiding and supporting those living with dementia and their families.