When it comes to some of the dementia care therapies that have a positive impact on those living with dementia, music has always been understood to be a great tool to use. Scientists and researchers have been focussing on this topic for years, trying to understand why and how music and those living with dementia are linked.

As we listen to or perform music, neural pathways all over our brain light up. In fact, nearly every region of the brain is involved in musical activities. Music stimulates connections between both sides of the brain and activates brain areas associated with emotional, cognitive, and memory processing. It is clear however that music definitely helps those with dementia. Music therapy interventions can be designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication and provide unique opportunities for interaction.

Studies show that your loved ones living with dementia can recall memories and emotions, and have enhanced mental performance after singing classic hits and show tunes from movies and musicals. At Livewell, we regularly incorporate sessions with music, between drumming and playing sing-along songs from the golden years with our residents during the week. We place an importance on music dementia care therapies and have been introducing it to our residents for some time. Watching the residents enjoy their favourite classical tunes and instruments has shown us what a difference music can make to their lives and wellbeing. According to Andrew Budson, Director at Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, “when people learn music, we store the knowledge as “procedural memory,” the kind associated with routines and repetitive activities (also known as muscle memory).

Dementia primarily destroys the parts of the brain responsible for episodic memory — the type that corresponds to specific events in our lives — but leaves the parts associated with procedural memory largely intact. Because we don’t shed this memory as we grow old, we retain our appreciation for music.” Remember that music can be introduced in many ways and is not only limited to listening to the radio. Watching people play musical instruments or getting your loved ones to sing along are great ways to stimulate their memory and boost their mental performance.

Take a look at this YouTube video that went viral immediately upon its release. Henry had suffered from dementia for a decade, was very withdrawn, and spent most of his time alone in his wheelchair, unable to communicate. Until he was given an iPod loaded with music from his era. Suddenly, the man who barely spoke was able to sing his favourite Cab Calloway songs. He literally came to life, reminiscing about how much he had loved music and dancing in his younger years.

Whether your loved one living with dementia is being treated at a care facility or at home, we encourage you to introduce music therapy to them and note the difference over a few days and weeks.

The importance of dementia care therapies

Meaningful dementia care therapies are of the utmost importance to those living with dementia. Dementia can cause people to withdraw from activities and enjoyable interaction with family and friends so it’s important to try and maintain those relationships and interests to help people living with dementia lead a better and more enjoyable quality of life. It is imperative for the person with dementia to be stimulated with appropriate activities, outings and creative endeavours, as these can assist in preventing them from becoming frustrated, lonely and depressed. It can furthermore assist in supporting the individual’s memory, keep them engaged within the family and community for as long as possible, and meaningfully improve quality of life.