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Finding Moments of Joy Through the Power of Music

Music can be a powerful tool for anyone caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. A favorite song can easily brighten someone’s day and bring back fond memories. Because music activates both hemispheres of the brain, it can even be helpful in improving some basic motor functions and balance. 

The 2012 documentary film, Alive Inside, showed the impact that music can have on people with dementia. Many of the people featured in the film experienced significant cognitive improvement while listening to music. One of the more memorable stories in the film is that of Henry Dryer, a 92-year old man with dementia who springs to life when listening to his favorite music. 

Many of us encounter music every day but it might not be obvious how much impact music has on our personalities, our memories or our physical health. Here are a few ways that music can benefit people with dementia.

Music Improves Emotional Well-Being

The joy that comes from hearing a pleasant melody can seem almost automatic, as can the memories of special times that come flooding back when a certain song comes in over the radio. It is a well-established fact that musical aptitude and appreciation are some of the most enduring cognitive abilities of people with dementia—long after coordinated movement or speech have declined, music can trigger surprisingly lucid moments filled with emotion and memory. 

Creating moments of joy with music can provide positive benefits for caregivers, as well. As a result of reduced incidents of disruptive behaviors, caregivers may experience less stress and more opportunities for genuine connection with patients.

Music Supports Physical Health  

It’s easy to tap your toes to a catchy beat. For many people with dementia, a good song is a great excuse to get moving. The opportunities for creative movement and activities that incorporate music are nearly endless and easily adaptable to suit the abilities of participants. For people in the early stages of dementia, ballroom dancing or easy aerobics can reinforce the connections between movement and rhythm, strengthening the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. In later stages of dementia, physical movement can become significantly impaired; incorporating music into activities like chair yoga or ball-toss can yield many of the same cognitive and physical benefits as slightly more rigorous physical activities. 

Music Brings People Together

People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are at a higher risk of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety due to the stigma that they experience as a result of their diagnosis. Many people with dementia will withdraw from family or friends, which can lead to negative health outcomes and accelerate the progression of the disease. Activities that bring people together and maintain community are essential and made more enjoyable with the addition of music. 

Sing-alongs and other musical activities tend to work best with familiar and generationally appropriate music. It can be surprising to learn how many songs stick with people over the course of a lifetime, and how many memories are associated with the music. Even simple listening sessions can be a great way to connect with your loved one, and to help them feel connected to you. 

Music and Alzheimer’s

Music at ComfortCare Homes 

Music finds its way into the residences at ComfortCare Homes on a daily basis. From guest performers giving concerts on the patio in the warmer months, to holiday sing-alongs during the winter, music is a central pillar supporting our goal of providing quality, healthy engagement opportunities for our residents. 

We know how challenging caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia is. Try incorporating music into your daily routine as one tool to reduce stress and create opportunities for genuine connections with your loved one. If you need ideas, or you’re ready to consider professional caregiving for your loved one, visit our website, or call us at (316) 685-3322 to schedule a free tour and consultation.

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