How Music Impacts Memory for People with Dementia

senior with headphone music

More than 44 million individuals throughout the world are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and struggle with memory loss, experience slowed thinking, and increased confusion. Although there is no cure for this disease, there are a variety of options that can help improve the outcomes and alleviate symptoms for these individuals.

Research suggests that music is one simple way to improve the lives of people with dementia. Here’s what the science seems to indicate:

Evokes Memories and Emotions

As the illness develops and abnormal changes in the brain occur, drawing up memories becomes increasingly difficult. This shouldn’t be confused with a normal part of aging, though, because Alzheimer’s and dementia create a progression that far exceeds the average senior’s forgetfulness.

When you hear your favorite song, you can’t help but feel something, whether it be happiness, nostalgia, or otherwise. The same can be said for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as music appreciation is one of the last regions of the brain affected by the illness.

Play the greatest hits from their youth to stir some emotions. If your loved one responds well to the stimulus, start a conversation about it. Ask them to tell you about the times they remember hearing, dancing, or singing along to the song.

Motivates Movement

Although Alzheimer’s and dementia are primarily illnesses that affect the brain, they can impact the rest of the body in later stages as well. Individuals will begin to struggle to communicate, walk, sit, and even swallow.

Some songs always make you want to move, though. Whether that includes singing along, tapping your toes, or clapping your hands, a little bit of movement can make a big impact on your overall mood.

Start with softer music to avoid causing your loved one any distress. Do they sway with the beat? Did you notice a boost in their mood? If so, add more music to your day-to-day habits to help them enjoy simple activities like morning routines or meal times.

Alleviates Stress and Anxiety

People with dementia become more agitated and may experience behavioral issues when the illness has reached moderate stages of progression. They have more difficulty understanding mentally or socially challenging situations, making them more moody, frustrated, confused, suspicious, and delusional.

Just like anyone else, music works wonders in reducing stress and anxiety in individuals with dementia. It’s said that music can slow heart rates and reduce cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress levels.

Before you begin, ensure your loved one is not distracted by competing noises, like a radio, TV, or other individuals. Consider introducing a soft melody that they may remember from their youth. If they respond well, make music a part of your home’s routine to help alleviate their stress and anxiety.

Music can have such a profound and significant impact on individuals living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are proud to offer the care and guidance your loved ones need to enjoy happy moments in their golden years.

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