More than six million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the most common form of dementia (about 80% of cases) and the fifth-leading cause of death among older Americans. There’s no medical cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are drugs that can temporarily improve memory and thinking skills in some people.
Early symptoms can be hard to detect, but common difficulties include forgetting names, misplacing things, and having trouble planning or organizing. As the disease progresses, you might feel moody or withdrawn, confused about where you are or what day it is, or wander and become lost. In the final stage of the disease, walking, communicating and, eventually, swallowing become difficult.
Why music may be the best medicine.
Neurodegenerative dementias like Alzheimer’s destroy nerve cells in your brain. However, musical memory networks in your brain stay intact even in late stages of dementia. If you’ve ever watched YouTube videos of people with dementia who are noncommunicative — almost in a vegetative state — become animated and responsive when they hear music from their past, you’ve witnessed the power of music therapy for dementia.
You’ve probably experienced something similar when you hear a song from your youth and it instantly brings back a flood of emotionally charged memories. That’s the power of music, and it’s being used by music therapists to stimulate memories, improve communication, and create an outlet for expressing feelings.
Music therapy helps at every stage of dementia.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, listening to music can help people relax and reduce depression. Singing or playing music can boost brain function, enhance mood, and give a sense of success and accomplishment. Music therapy for dementia can challenge cognitive skills and encourage social interaction.
In the middle stages, when behaviors can sometimes be challenging, music is an effective way to distract someone. For example, you can sing a song with a person while you walk together. Often, the person walks farther while singing along and has a more enjoyable time exercising. Music therapy for dementia has also been shown to help people sleep better at night.
In the later stages, music therapy for dementia can help calm agitation or aggression. It can awaken people who’ve become isolated and help them become more engaged and aware of their surroundings. Even when verbal communication has been lost, moving to music or dancing with your spouse can help you stay connected.
Memory support at Sedgebrook.
If someone you love is struggling with memory loss, the assisted living memory care neighborhood at Radford Green offers expert care in a safe, homelike setting.
Round-the-clock nursing care, private suites, and highly trained therapists provide a comfortable environment and stimulating activities that can improve quality of life for your loved one. To learn more, contact us.