Using Music to Boost Mood When a Senior has Alzheimer's

  • February 18, 2019

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. If you’ve ever heard a song that sparked a pleasant memory from the past, then you’ve experienced the effect music can have on the brain. Researchers say music can be a powerful tool. 

Music’s healing harmonies can positively impact mood for people living with Alzheimer’s, even those in the later stages of the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, music, when used appropriately, can lessen dementia-related stress, agitation, and depression.

Music Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease

The auditory system of the brain develops early and remains intact longer, even as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. That’s why people with late stage Alzheimer’s may still respond to music. 

Research shows that music stimulates cognitive pathways and taps into long-term memory. If an older adult with Alzheimer’s can still walk and stand, music may encourage them to dance and show emotion. Seniors with dementia, who have not spoken in a long time, may begin to sing tunes from their teenage and young adulthood years. For family members, it can be a welcome and heartwarming sight. 

Music in Alzheimer’s Care Communities and at Home

Memory care neighborhoods, like those in Five Star Senior Living communities, routinely offer music therapy to keep residents with dementia engaged. From a seated exercise class to a balloon toss, you will see music being used to entertain, calm, and stimulate.

If you'd like to incorporate music therapy for a senior at home, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommends the following ways:

Early Stage Alzheimer’s 

  • Play music during exercises like stretching or resistance bands. It can boost mood while helping improve core strength.
  • Encourage a senior who used to play an instrument to try playing again. They just might be able to do it!
  • Turn on the favorite tunes of a senior and encourage them to sing along or whistle while you both take a walk around the neighborhood. 

Mid to Late Stage Alzheimer’s

  • Soft music can help calm and soothe agitation, bringing comfort to seniors who experience Sundowner’s Syndrome.
  • Use music with peaceful sounds of nature to help a senior relax and fall asleep.
  • If an older adult with dementia is tearful or withdrawn, have a sing-along to old-fashioned show tunes such as “Hello Dolly!” or “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”

Researchers continue to explore how alternative therapies, like music, art, and animals can help improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news and research findings, we encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive helpful articles and senior care resources delivered to your Inbox a few times a month. 
 


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