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Dementia & Music

Some people with dementia are agitated; some are withdrawn; some are difficult to stimulate, others difficult to calm. Music has been demonstrated to be an effective tool to help with both types of behavior.  Music has the capacity to bring out emotions that trigger happy memories.  Happy memories seem to have the ability to make people feel happy, calm and engaged.

Musical ability and appreciation for music remain as accessible memories long after people with dementia have forgotten almost everything else.  When music that has meaning for a person is played, there is a flicker of awareness that appears in the eyes of the person and along with that a response to the music that is not only soothing but also energizing.  People who usually sit quietly withdrawn from activities begin moving to the music.  Music can help change moods and manage stress and seems to improve coordination so physical activity such as exercise is easier and more likely to happen.

The key is to use music that has meaning for your loved one.  Not any song will do.  Playing the latest country hit for your mom probably won't make a difference but remembering that she used to love Patsy Cline and playing one of her oldies might put a smile on mom's face.  So often, the music an older person is exposed to is determined by the preferences of the person controlling the music player. It isn't a sound that has any memories attached to it so there is no response from your loved one.  You can create a collection of music with your relative's memories in mind and play them often.  It may be the key to enjoying a tender moment with you.