It’s no secret that music and emotions are linked in a powerful way. Many individuals have worked to develop music for each stage of life, from infancy, to childhood, to old age. In the past few years, an emphasis has been put on the power of music therapy for dementia.
What is Music Therapy?
According to the APA (American Psychological Association), music therapy is “a therapy that couples music and movement to improve human functioning, particularly through the healing power of rhythm, melody, and harmony”. It employs a variety of activities, such as listening to melodies, playing an instrument, writing songs and guided imagery. This form of treatment has been used for centuries to focus attention, reduce stress, lower anxiety and in-turn, influence behaviour.
As early as 400BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates was known to play music for mental health patients. 2000 years later, and music as medicine has been the subject of numerous qualitative and quantitative research literature. A lot of this research has been geared towards the emotional and behavioural benefits that music therapy provides for those living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Music Therapy and Dementia
In the past few years, a bigger emphasis has been put on utilising non-pharmalogical therapies to provide adequate care and supervision to those living with dementia. Many studies have been conducted that demonstrate the power music in reducing agitated behaviour for dementia patients, and music giving them the ability to reflect on memories they had otherwise forgotten.
According to a study conducted by Queensland’s Department of Health, residents from a range of aged care facilities showed a significant improvement in quality of life, depression, aggressive and verbally agitated behaviour after partaking in music therapy as part of their regular activities.
The power of music for dementia lies in reminiscence therapy, which is a treatment that uses all the senses to help people living with dementia remember past events. When listening to loved songs from their youth, it helps those with dementia recall happy memories from the past. Even as individuals lose touch with recent events, they may hold onto cherished memories that can be unlocked through familiar melodies.
“We know that music is a powerful stimulator of the brain. It has the potential to be a critical tool to preserve and enhance brain health” says professor and researcher, Dr. Jacob Mintzer who has dedicated his life to finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Music therapy is just one part of the treatment options available for those living with dementia, but it can be a powerful force in helping to maintain a higher quality of life. Given the positive impact music has around the world, it is no surprise this form of therapy appears to be so successful amongst those living with dementia.