Dementia and the power of music

Opinion May 31, 2019 by Joanne De Rubeis Ancaster News

Researchers have long explored how music affects the mind. Studies have shown that music can influence our ability to think, learn and remember — and even connect with the people around us.

One fascinating area of research is how people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can benefit from music. This question is especially compelling in the face of statistics: the Alzheimer Society of Canada reports that 564,000 Canadians live with dementia; 15 years from now, that number is expected to surpass 930,000.

Music and the brain

A few studies on music and dementia have shown promising findings, including:

• The area of the brain associated with musical memory tends to be least affected by dementia. People can often recall music from their teens and 20s.

• Music appreciation is one of the last cognitive skills to be affected by dementia.

• Music therapy may help reduce cognitive decline and enhance quality of life.

• Music may improve the memory of people with dementia.

• The emotional content of music can bring back emotional memories.

• Music can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and agitation.

• Singing can increase brain activity. Participating in small group music sessions may improve cognitive abilities of people with moderate to severe dementia.

• Personalized music and memory therapy may improve symptoms and reduce the usage of anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications in people living with dementia.

Starting the music

If you have a loved one with dementia, here are some ideas for connecting with them through music:

• People with dementia may become agitated, aggressive or anxious. Soothing music can help calm or lighten their mood.

• When creating playlists, look for songs with special meaning for your loved one, such as favourite tunes from their teenage years. If you need ideas, ask family members for input (they may also appreciate the opportunity to help).

• Start with something gentle and play it softly. To avoid over-stimulation, turn off the TV and other sources of noise.

• Enjoy music with your loved one by listening to songs together, singing, playing instruments or dancing.

• Music can evoke negative emotions and memories as well as positive, happy ones. When playing music for someone with dementia, watch how they react. If they appear to be enjoying it — singing, humming, tapping their feet — that’s a good sign. But if they become uncomfortable or upset, take a break and try again another time, with different songs.

Joanne De Rubeis, a graduate of McMaster University, is a registered nurse of 32 years, specializing in the health of older adults with Bayshore Home Health. This column should be used for informational purposes only.

Dementia and the power of music

Music influences our ability to think and remember, writes Joanne De Rubeis

Opinion May 31, 2019 by Joanne De Rubeis Ancaster News

Researchers have long explored how music affects the mind. Studies have shown that music can influence our ability to think, learn and remember — and even connect with the people around us.

One fascinating area of research is how people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can benefit from music. This question is especially compelling in the face of statistics: the Alzheimer Society of Canada reports that 564,000 Canadians live with dementia; 15 years from now, that number is expected to surpass 930,000.

Music and the brain

A few studies on music and dementia have shown promising findings, including:

• The area of the brain associated with musical memory tends to be least affected by dementia. People can often recall music from their teens and 20s.

• Music appreciation is one of the last cognitive skills to be affected by dementia.

• Music therapy may help reduce cognitive decline and enhance quality of life.

• Music may improve the memory of people with dementia.

• The emotional content of music can bring back emotional memories.

• Music can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and agitation.

• Singing can increase brain activity. Participating in small group music sessions may improve cognitive abilities of people with moderate to severe dementia.

• Personalized music and memory therapy may improve symptoms and reduce the usage of anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications in people living with dementia.

Starting the music

If you have a loved one with dementia, here are some ideas for connecting with them through music:

• People with dementia may become agitated, aggressive or anxious. Soothing music can help calm or lighten their mood.

• When creating playlists, look for songs with special meaning for your loved one, such as favourite tunes from their teenage years. If you need ideas, ask family members for input (they may also appreciate the opportunity to help).

• Start with something gentle and play it softly. To avoid over-stimulation, turn off the TV and other sources of noise.

• Enjoy music with your loved one by listening to songs together, singing, playing instruments or dancing.

• Music can evoke negative emotions and memories as well as positive, happy ones. When playing music for someone with dementia, watch how they react. If they appear to be enjoying it — singing, humming, tapping their feet — that’s a good sign. But if they become uncomfortable or upset, take a break and try again another time, with different songs.

Joanne De Rubeis, a graduate of McMaster University, is a registered nurse of 32 years, specializing in the health of older adults with Bayshore Home Health. This column should be used for informational purposes only.

Dementia and the power of music

Music influences our ability to think and remember, writes Joanne De Rubeis

Opinion May 31, 2019 by Joanne De Rubeis Ancaster News

Researchers have long explored how music affects the mind. Studies have shown that music can influence our ability to think, learn and remember — and even connect with the people around us.

One fascinating area of research is how people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can benefit from music. This question is especially compelling in the face of statistics: the Alzheimer Society of Canada reports that 564,000 Canadians live with dementia; 15 years from now, that number is expected to surpass 930,000.

Music and the brain

A few studies on music and dementia have shown promising findings, including:

• The area of the brain associated with musical memory tends to be least affected by dementia. People can often recall music from their teens and 20s.

• Music appreciation is one of the last cognitive skills to be affected by dementia.

• Music therapy may help reduce cognitive decline and enhance quality of life.

• Music may improve the memory of people with dementia.

• The emotional content of music can bring back emotional memories.

• Music can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and agitation.

• Singing can increase brain activity. Participating in small group music sessions may improve cognitive abilities of people with moderate to severe dementia.

• Personalized music and memory therapy may improve symptoms and reduce the usage of anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications in people living with dementia.

Starting the music

If you have a loved one with dementia, here are some ideas for connecting with them through music:

• People with dementia may become agitated, aggressive or anxious. Soothing music can help calm or lighten their mood.

• When creating playlists, look for songs with special meaning for your loved one, such as favourite tunes from their teenage years. If you need ideas, ask family members for input (they may also appreciate the opportunity to help).

• Start with something gentle and play it softly. To avoid over-stimulation, turn off the TV and other sources of noise.

• Enjoy music with your loved one by listening to songs together, singing, playing instruments or dancing.

• Music can evoke negative emotions and memories as well as positive, happy ones. When playing music for someone with dementia, watch how they react. If they appear to be enjoying it — singing, humming, tapping their feet — that’s a good sign. But if they become uncomfortable or upset, take a break and try again another time, with different songs.

Joanne De Rubeis, a graduate of McMaster University, is a registered nurse of 32 years, specializing in the health of older adults with Bayshore Home Health. This column should be used for informational purposes only.