senior man in wheelchair enjoying listening to music as he looks at his smartphone
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Soothing dementia patients with music

While music does not play a part in the actual treatment of dementia, it can offer benefits in social, emotional, and cognitive skills. It can also reduce behavioral problems and aggression in individuals with dementia. “Accumulating evidence shows that persons with dementia enjoy music, and their ability to respond to music is potentially preserved even in the late or severe stages of dementia when verbal communication may have ceased.”  

And even though the music itself does not act as a medical treatment, it can aide in the quality of life for both patients and their caregivers. Music can help relieve stress, anxiety and depression for both parties. As well, music can be used to connect with individuals with dementia who have trouble communicating. 

When it comes to finding the right type of music to help a loved one with dementia by soothing through music, consider these factors. 

  • Musical Preferences – It’s probably not best to try to stimulate your loved one with music that they are unfamiliar with. Try to find music that fits their taste or that they have fond memories attached to. Calm music is better to help soothe the environment and decrease agitation while a bit livelier music is great to get your loved one active and maybe even participate in a dance!
  • Sing With The Music – There are studies that suggest music can stimulate memory. Sing along with the music and try to get your loved one to join in. Music is great for people with dementia because the part of the brain linked to music memory is not affected by the disease. Not only will singing along help with memory functions, but it’s a great way to enhance mood and creating bonding moments. 
  • Pay Close Attention – Even though you may pick music that you know that your loved one loves; they may not enjoy it at that exact moment. Watch body language and facial expressions to identify signs of enjoyment or agitation. If the individual seems to enjoy the music, play it for them often. If not, choose different music that might click better with them. 
  • Reduce Noise – While you are playing music, be mindful of what is happening around you. TV and other outside noises can cause over-stimulation and confusion. Close off any sounds that could disturb the music and allow your loved one to focus on the music alone. 
  • Music And Sleep – If your loved one responds well to calming music, it may be a good idea to play calming music to help your loved one fall asleep. Likewise, it could be useful during meal times to alleviate agitation during meals and help the individual eat and digest food better. 

Even though music therapy isn’t considered a medical treatment, there are obvious benefits that can help comfort and ease your loved one’s emotions during periods of discomfort. This is a great tool for caregivers to use also to decompress and release tension from full-time and even part-time caregiving. If you are unsure which music to try with your loved one, try different types of music for one that fits. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for any suggestions or resources he/she might have.