Whether or not we actively search for and listen to songs, sing, or play an instrument, music plays a big role in our lives. It’s played at graduations, birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries. It’s in our cars, in busy downtown streets and can even be heard through other people’s headsets or through open car windows. It could be argued that it is almost impossible to live life without having music associated with memories. Some of those memories might be happy – the song that was playing when you were first kissed or the lullaby that was sang to put you to sleep when you were little. Others might be sad. A man once shared with me that he is unable to listen to Amazing Grace without crying because he had heard it at so many people’s funerals.
For those living with dementia, listening to and participating in musical activities can have many positive effects. “…music – like art and other creative forms of therapy – can stir emotions and memories, enhance enjoyment and self-esteem, and enrich the lives of people with dementia.” Some studies have shown that “…improvements of mood, behaviour, even cognitive function – once set off by music can sometimes persist for hours of even days in people with dementia. Researchers are only beginning to study the secrets of why and how this happens…” “People with dementia can feel isolated with the loss of language skills. Music therapy can reduce anxiety and stress, and enhance emotional wellbeing through verbal and non-verbal expression, increased social interaction and cognitive stimulation. It can encourage the use of knowledge and abilities stored in the long-term memory such as lyrics from familiar songs, and encourage listening, singing, movement and music making.” It is estimated that 65% of music therapists work with alzheimer and dementia patients. Because of the emotions tied to music, the limbic system is activated when patients participate.
If you are interested in connecting your loved one with a music therapist or a group that uses music to connect with patients, please visit the following links.