4 Benefits Of Music Therapy For Those With Dementia
One in six people over the age of 80 have dementia. There are many treatments that can help those with dementia but music therapy is a fun example that offers a range of benefits.
From being a form of entertainment to giving people a means of expression, this is how music therapy helps people with dementia to make friends and reconnect with their treasured memories.
Recommended reading: Carers Week 2019
Let us entertain you
One of the most important things in life is to be entertained. Music is something that everyone can enjoy, and using it as a form of therapy can be especially beneficial to those with dementia.
To make it really entertaining, the music must be tailored to the individual – there’s no sense in basing the therapy around listening to classical music if that’s not a genre the person enjoys.
Dementia can cause people to withdraw from society, as they lose confidence or the will to build and maintain relationships. This can lead to experiencing one or more types of anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues .
Music therapy counters the risk of those with dementia experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress by bringing them together with other people who have dementia. This can help to build community support networks, giving those with dementia a new group of people they can turn to for help and interaction – ones in the same situation. But group sessions can also involve family and friends, helping to maintain relationships too.
The Wellingborough dementia choir is one example of music helping to bring people together. The choir was set up by Ruth Bowe, who was given the inspiration by the BBC series Our Dementia Choir. Ruth explains how the choir works: “Our free choir sessions are open to anyone living with dementia, every Thursday morning for an hour of lively and interactive singing followed by refreshments and socialising amongst all the participants, carers and Wellingborough Community Gospel Choir members.”
Speaking from experience, the loss of memory that comes from dementia is extremely difficult for those with the condition and for their family members. Trying to coax memory back, such as by showing people photos, can lead to anxiety.
Anxiety may come because the person with dementia feels shame for being unable to remember or because they feel distressed from tapping into a past experience. Research has shown that memory for music is unaffected by mentally destructive diseases like Alzheimer’s, making it an effective way of helping people to naturally access their memories.
Music is one of the most popular activities on offer at Glenner Town Square, a centre in Chula Vista, California. It employs professional carers to guide elderly people with dementia through an interactive experience, one that helps them reconnect with their memories. Alongside music, Glenner Town Square uses memorabilia, photos, and a range of other devices to help people.
Without being inside the heads of those with the condition, it’s difficult to comment on the worst things about dementia. However, from seeing loved ones with it, the loss of self, identity and expression is one of the toughest things for people with dementia to deal with. Music therapy gives people a means of expressing themselves and encouraging them to regain their sense of self.
People can write music, share their opinions on it, or play free form. Whichever of these they choose, it gives those with dementia a vehicle to regain and maintain their identity.
The effect of dementia on both the carer and cared for can be debilitating, and it is important for families and couples to spend time together to strengthen relationships and take part in activities that encourage stimulation and an improved quality of life.
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About the author: Dr Don Grant (MB, ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, Dip.orth.med) is the clinical lead at The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies. For more healthcare and treatment advice, visit their website.