The Beneficial Power of Music
Music and the Brain
Recent research has indicated that the areas of the brain that store memories of music are relatively unaffected by Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Even knowing how to play an instrument is tucked away in a part of the brain that can remain unaffected by these ailments. Some studies have even found that listening to music can help individuals recall specific memories, names, faces, and places.
The emotional experience of listening to music can increase the release of dopamine, which is lacking in those with Parkinson’s disease. For those with dementia, simply listening to music can improve mood, behavior, and cognitive function; and those benefits can linger long after the music has stopped. Studies have also shown that adults who play or are learning to play an instrument show improved performance on cognitive tests.
Easy Ways to Benefit from Music at Home
Create a Playlist
Consider creating a playlist your loved one can sing along to or tap their feet to. When choosing songs for the playlist, consider the top songs from when they were young.
Playing an Instrument
If your loved one used to play an instrument, consider having them try it again. Playing an instrument may help spark old memories.
Use Music as Part of the Daily Routine
Combining songs with daily routine can make necessary activities like eating and washing dishes more enjoyable. The practice can also help recall memories of that activity.
Pay Attention to How Certain Music Makes them Feel
Music can be stimulating or soothing. It can conjure up a range of emotions from elation to melancholy. Music can turn a bad mood around, trigger lost memories, and ground people in the present moment. Look for
clues in your loved one’s mood and body language as they listen to the music — especially at first — to gauge the effect a song is having on you. If you feel a song or playlist is having an adverse effect, turn it off or switch to a different song.
Songs to Consider
With 1000’s of songs to choose from across multiple genres, starting a playlist can be overwhelming. Below is a list of five songs that are considered some of the most well-known songs. This may be a good place to start.
• Over the Rainbow
• You Are My Sunshine
• Amazing Grace
• Take Me Out to the Ballgame
• What a Wonderful World
When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV; shut the door. It’s usually best to opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials.
Move and Sing
Singing along to the music and moving with the beat can improve moods and deepen relationships with those who are interacting in that activity with you. Consider clapping hands, tapping their feet, or even dancing. Please note — if your loved one has a hard time moving, you may want to consider having someone assist, like physically clapping someone’s hands if the comfort level is there. (Sources: A Place for Mom, Mayo Clinic, and Dementia Care Central)
Music is a great tool to help prevent cognitive decline. If there are specific goals, such as stress reduction or mood improvement, you are trying to attain through music, please consult a music professional. (Source: Cleveland Clinic)
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