Recently, a video shared by an organization that promotes music therapy for those afflicted by dementia went viral. The video reveals an elderly woman, purported to have been a prima ballerina, responding to music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Music therapy has become a common and effective approach to help those living with dementia, and those working in senior care in Indianapolis, IN point to several reasons why this approach is so beneficial.
How Music Affects the Brain
Using MRI, researchers have quite literally watched music “light up” the brain. Meanwhile, those involved in companion care, using little more than their daily interactions, have observed the tangible ways that music “lights up” a person’s life. Scientists refer to the effects that music has on the brain as neurogenesis which is what happens when the brain produces neurons.
This happens because music…
- Elicits significant human emotion
- Employs similar neural pathways as language
- Triggers powerful memories and associated feelings
In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that music not only has a calming affect on a person living with the disease, it also provides someone a means to communicate even as his/her access to language begins to erode.
What elderly care workers in Indianapolis, IN also know is that a person does not need to have a rich history in music to incur its benefits. None of us require dance lessons to “kick it” in the car at the stoplight, nor do we need years of vocal training to enthusiastically sing in the shower. Music is part of our identity, and studies reveal that it also promotes socio-cultural connections.
Music and Memory
The National Institute on Aging states that memory problems are among the first symptoms of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s. Those committed to senior care in Indianapolis, IN also witness a decline in cognition that affects a person’s ability to “find” words and adjust to spatial challenges. Yet, there is a reason we learned our ABC’s (as well as other lists and facts) through the creation of a song.
Anyone who grew up watching Sesame Street recognizes why the senior care workers in Indianapolis, IN implement music therapy: music aids our ability to recall information and enhances our capacity to communicate.
According to experts, music can introduce a “memory bump,” a term used to describe the recollection of autobiographical information and memories of life events.
How to Create an Effective Playlist as a Companion Caregiver
Music for Dementia offers some excellent advice for how to create the right playlist. Among their suggestions is finding songs that reflect who the person is.
Before choosing the songs, ask yourself:
- Where did the person come from?
- What clues exist in photos (places they visited or people they knew)?
- Specifically, what music would they have listened to from ages 10-30?
Ultimately, music has always been a powerful force to stir emotions and stimulate motivation, so we should not overlook the positive impact it can have on those living with memory loss or cognitive impairments.