Alzheimer’s is a progressive memory loss disease that affects millions of Americans every year. Research is working tirelessly to find a cure, but in the meantime, there are a number of therapy options that can help improve quality of life and wellbeing. Music therapy just happens to one of the most fun varieties for Alzheimer’s.
The power of music is easily described as a uniting force. Rhythm and beat is a worldwide language that unites the globe and individuals alike. What research is also showing though, is that it provides a therapeutic benefit to those with memory loss.
How Can Music Therapy Help Alzheimer’s?
As the disease advances, the cognitive decline becomes more apparent. Remarkably, the area of the brain that stores musical memory is one that does not get damaged. With this, it provides a gateway to memories of the past and opportunities to spur happy thoughts. it serves an upbeat or soothing way to bring recall and connection to a senior and the world they may have lost familiarity with.
The emotional and behavioral effects are quite apparent in how it can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It not only contributes these good feelings to the one who has Alzheimer’s, but the caregiver as well. Caregiving is stressful and tiring to take on, and music therapy allows for a positive outlet of care.
Best Tips for Successful Sessions
Here are a few tips on how music therapy is done in the most successful way:
Preferences and favorites. Consider what genre of music your loved one enjoys the most. Were they an old school rockaholic? Or do they enjoy more acoustic sounds of classic country or simple instrumentals? Is there a certain time of their life that was during a notable era of music? Ask friends and family for suggestions or help when building the playlist.
Setting the mood. Playing music or singing a calming song during daily grooming or by making it a part of a care routine can help bring a positive association with the interaction. An upbeat tune can be used as a mood booster if your loved one needs to feel more uplifted.
Avoid overstimulation and overwhelming them. It will be best to turn off the television or close doors to eliminate any noises that might compete or cause negative feelings or confusion to arise. Only set the volume at a level that is just enough for their hearing.
Encourage and involve movement. Clapping, tapping the feet to the beat, or even dancing is just another added bonus. Physical movement will in turn add to increased circulation to the body, and most importantly, the brain.
Host a singalong. Singing is a fun activity that can allow for bonding and connection. Just as music is stored in a unique part of the brain, lyrics can trigger memory. Vocalization and dialogue may also be achieved when singing, and be a great leg up for those in the advanced stages of the disease that may have trouble speaking. It might provide them with a way to communicate and connect with others that they have been previously struggling with.
Incorporate instruments. Find out what your loved one’s favorite instrument is. Base it on past experience, whether they had a history of playing guitar or piano, or by simply listening to and observing their reaction to different types of music.
Board-Certified Music Therapists
Music therapy is a non-pharmaceutical approach to the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Therapists in this field are board-certified, and go through rigorous training in order to obtain sufficient knowledge on how to carefully direct treatment and monitor progress with individuals. Their objective is to improve the social, physical, communicative, and cognitive well being based on professional standards.
They know exactly what activities are best suited for various stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as other health conditions. Music is used to leverage brain function and build up abilities that may be faltering – such as speech, communication, and social interaction.
Examples of Music Therapist Efforts
These are the following tactics and strategies that are commonly used by music therapists:
Clinical Improvisation: In this setting, non-verbal expression and vocal articulation is encouraged through melodic or percussion instruments.
Song Composition: In this scenario, melody composition and original music-making is promoted and in the goal of reminiscence.
Listening to Music: Playing music as a conversation starter and a way of triggering memories. This provides opportunities for recall and expressing feelings and emotions.
Instrument Playing: Depending on the individual’s ability, musical skills are leveraged – whether it is vocal or instrumental that they may have had experience with.
At Kensington Park, we have in-house board certified music therapists. This offers the opportunity for a one-on-one or group setting. Being that we are a community for seniors in need of independent living, assisted living, and two neighborhoods of memory care, we work with all levels of care.
Music brings smiles, laughter, and warm feelings that a senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia may need more than ever. In a community, this therapy would be able to be provided on a regularly scheduled basis.