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The Music Connection and Dementia

Music holds an important therapeutic quality — a song can relate to a memory, evoke emotions, and bring peace and calm to its listener. Incorporating music into your loved one’s dementia care provides an invaluable connection, no matter the stage or severity.

Music provides a direct channel to emotions and stimulates the intuitive right side of the brain. Psychological ratings have indicated the positive effects of music on anxiety, depression and pain relief. Music can bring great joy, encourage socialization, and calm irritation. Communication and self-expression are also encouraged by music.

Those living with dementia experience a loss of independence and self-esteem. Music therapy is a valuable tool to promote communication, singing, sitting, interaction with an instrument, and simply watching others perform. There are many different applications of music therapy throughout the stages of dementia. Following are some suggestions for use, but only you know your loved one and the music that they enjoy — so experiment and do what works!

During the early and middle stages of dementia, use your loved one’s favorite music as a reminder of certain milestones, people, places or memories. For example, play their wedding song to evoke recollection of their spouse, or spend time together while watching a musical from their childhood. Encourage participation through movement, such as dancing or clapping.

During the late stages of dementia, people typically respond only to nonverbal communication (music, sound, touch, and visual stimulation). Use music to soothe your loved one, or to connect to and communicate with them. Play their favorite tune when you’re spending time together, or put on a quiet, calming song when they’re upset.