Music is one of the most universal ways in which people reach others. We all know stories of human connection created by music, no matter the language spoken. It cuts across cultural divides, language barriers, and generation gaps. Most of our celebrations, sorrows, and important memories include music, and therefore so do our memories. We all know songs that can bring back vivid memories of time and place.
Why is music important when offering care to seniors with dementia? It is a powerful way to reach those who may have cognitive dysfunction or memory loss. When memories fail, and language doesn’t reach those in front of us, music may be what cuts through it all.
There are many examples of seniors with dementia responding positively to music therapy, but it doesn’t have to be offered by a professional to make a difference. Family members, friends, or caregivers may all know what type of music might be reach a loved one. With that knowledge, activities or connection time can be created that use music to establish and nurture connection.
Music can reduce agitation, improve communication, and bring faded memories to life. It can help revive connection between loved ones and family members who have long been separated by dementia. It can give caregivers reassurance that their care and attention is worthwhile, which then results in better care and less caregiver burnout.
Musical activities for seniors with dementia can include:
- Listening to the radio or other background music
- Hearing a choir or orchestra on TV
- Singing with a caregiver or group
- Enjoying live music in a community centre or place of worship
- Spending time with familiar musical instruments
- Listening to custom playlists created to help trigger memories
If you haven’t tried using music to reach a loved one with dementia, there are many ways to get started. Connect with other family members to brainstorm songs and music that might be important to your loved one. Consider music from a certain era, genres that were old favourites, special songs from important milestones, and light-hearted or simple songs that may have been learned early in life.
You can also reach out to resources who may have more information on how music may help those with dementia. Your loved one’s caregiver may already have experience in this area, or know someone who does. They may have a musical background or willingness to explore the idea. All these can be helpful. Your family doctor may have recommendations, or be able to connect you with other medical professionals who have insight or contacts. And in some communities, there may be organizations or individuals specializing in music therapy for those with dementia.
There are also global organizations like Music & Memory who are working towards raising the awareness of the benefits music can hold. They can be a valuable source of information, as well as specific examples of those who have experienced the phenomenon firsthand.
Seniors with dementia require other accommodations and special care, and offer challenges to those supporting them. We offer specialized services and experienced caregivers to ensure these needs are readily met.
Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team
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