How can singing help with dementia?

Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday tasks. It can cause dependency in people that live with dementia.

Along with deterioration of cognitive function, behavioural changes can occur. This can affect the person experiencing dementia and their carers and loved ones.

How does music therapy help?

Music helps to improve mood, regulate behaviour and relieve stress. According to research, music therapy aims to address cognitive powers, problems and to stimulate the emotional senses of a person. Music therapy aims to give freedom, focus, stability and to enrich the life of the person. Now, music therapy is a valid treatment. These activities appear to be beneficial for friends, family and carers as well.

Music in dementia care:

In dementia care, music power is helpful to unlock the memories and give a kick-start to the grey matter in the brain. Music therapy can reach the parts of the brain, which are otherwise unapproachable with other types of communications.

According to professor Paul Robertson, we can remain contactable as the music continues to the end of our lives.

The auditory brain system is the first developed system by 16 weeks in pregnancy. It means that a foetus is musically receptive even long before its birth. So, it becomes a first in and lasts out case regarding dementia-associated memory breakdown.

In the UK, many music students and experienced musicians continue their practical experience by visiting the care homes as a part of their learning. Musical memory, musical emotion, and musical perception can stay long even after all other memories are lost. In dementia, music can help support behaviour, mood, and cognitive functioning. These improvements can remain even when the music stops.

A complementary treatment:

Listening to any preferred or familiar music can elicit happy and pleasurable responses as moving, dancing, or smiling. These responses are even sometimes present when general communication is lost. From  physiological aspects, music therapy can increase the hormonal levels and heart rate in people impacted by impaired cognition. Furthermore, musical instruments can even delay the risk of cognitive decline in the future. The risk of dementia also lowers by staying in touch with music and sounds.

According to the results of some studies, music therapy shows improvement in general cognition of the individual's (by MMSE score evaluation) executive functioning, and attention. Singing can help the people to evoke their remote memories by recollecting the names of their children and friends. One can also ask them to recall the immediate-short stories happening in their lives.

If music therapy is in the form of a song or group singing activities, then it can improve verbal memory for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies claim that songs can help people to recall their lost vocabularies. This therapy can give quick and immediate results with a higher rate of emotional content. The memories of music are generally more positive than negative as compared to other types of interventions.

References:

Craig, J. (2014). Music therapy to reduce agitation in dementia. Nursing times, 110(32-33), 12-15.

Kerer, M., Marksteiner, J., Hinterhuber, H., Mazzola, G., Steinberg, R., & Weiss, E. M. (2009). Dementia and music.

 

Neuropsychiatrie: Klinik, Diagnostik, Therapie und Rehabilitation: Organ der Gesellschaft Osterreichischer Nervenarzte und Psychiater, 23(1), 4-14.

Koger, S., & Brotons, M. (2000). Music therapy for dementia symptoms. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews(3), CD001121-CD001121.

Suzuki, M., Kanamori, M., Nagasawa, S., & Saruhara, T. (2005). Behavioral, stress and immunological evaluation methods of music therapy in elderly patients with senile dementia. Nihon Ronen Igakkai zasshi. Japanese journal of geriatrics, 42(1), 74-82.