Music and Dementia: How Can Music Help with Memory?
Music and Dementia

Music and Dementia: How Can Music Help with Memory?

Did you know there is a connection between music and dementia? People living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia typically experience mild to severe memory loss depending on the stage of the disease. Losing the ability to recall can impact their independence and reduce their quality of life.

Memory loss can be distressing for the diagnosed individual, as well as their caregivers. As a caregiver of someone with dementia, you may try to find ways to help them retrieve stored memories or recall big events in their lives. Recent research surrounding music and dementia is proving to show promise in helping to facilitate memory recall. Continue reading to learn more about the connection between music and dementia, and how the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation uses music therapy to improve the quality of life of those impacted by dementia.

What Causes Memory Loss in People with Dementia?

The normal process of aging causes a natural decline in memory. However, dementia-related memory loss occurs primarily due to the slow degeneration of brain cells. Cells can be destroyed because of brain injuries from an accident or stroke, infection, or medical conditions that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. At first, the signs of memory loss can be confused with normal memory lapse or forgetfulness. But in the case of dementia, symptoms tend to persist and get worse over time.  

Is There a Therapeutic Connection Between Music and Dementia?

Some of the leading research suggests there is a strong positive connection between dementia and music. For instance, an article published by Harvard Health clearly shows a correlation of how music can boost memory and mood. According to the article, music has a way of reactivating parts of the brain associated with emotions, memory, reward, reasoning, and speech and can open the memory vault of your loved one impacted by dementia.

How Can Music Help with Memory?

The Harvard article was published following an experiment by a social worker who wanted to show the astounding effects music can have on the mood, behavior, and memory in people with dementia living at a nursing home. Family members were asked to create a list of songs their loved one once enjoyed. An individualized playlist was then created from the list and played for them to listen to. Excitingly, they were able to recall and link past events to the songs, speak, sing along and even danced!

The explanation for this may lie in findings that areas of the brain linked to musical memory remain relatively undamaged by Alzheimer's and dementia — according to Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Moreover, singing or listening to music can bring out positive and pleasant emotions in your loved one. It can improve mood, reduce stress, relieve anxiety or help with depression.

How You Can Help Your Loved One Retrieve Lost Memories

Based on studies, it is possible for you to help your loved one affected by dementia to recall their treasured memories and help provide them a sense of happiness and hope. You can simply create a playlist of their favorite songs on an MP3 player or an iPod, which they can listen to as often as they like.

Whether it is rock, jazz, classical, or instrumental, music can take them down memory lane and elicit some wonderful stored memories. Upbeat music can lift their mood while relaxing songs can be therapeutic and soothing. Additionally, you can encourage them to clap, dance or sing along while you join them to share the moment.

Bring Back the Memories with LIAF's Music and Memory Program

The Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation (LIAF) recognizes and encourages the therapeutic connection between music and dementia. We believe music offers hope for caregivers whose loved ones are impacted by the disease.

Music and Memory Program

Since 2017, LIAF’s Music and Memory Program has offered hope to those impacted by dementia and caregivers. The program’s growth and extraordinary results have earned LIAF the 2018 Imagine Award for Innovation. Our Music and Memory program is available to all caregivers and diagnosed individuals.

LIAF Chorus Program

Across the nation, dozens of choirs have developed for people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The goal of LIAF's Chorus Program is to reduce anxiety, exercise the brain, foster new friendships, and have fun through the remarkable power of song. Our Chorus Program brings together diagnosed individuals and their caregivers for a shared purpose.

Looking to learn more about our Music and Memory program or the LIAF Chorus? Please call our center at 516-767-6856 for more information.

Contact LIAF to Learn More About Music & Dementia

Whether you are a caregiver looking for different day programs for your loved one with Alzheimer's or a family member looking to learn more about the different stages of Alzheimer's; the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation can help. We are proud to be one of the few comprehensive centers offering programs and services for all three stages of the disease as well as in-home respite care and caregiver support groups.

In addition, we offer different programming based on the latest research, including services that incorporate the connection between music and dementia. At LIAF, we are determined on making an impact in the lives of those impacted by Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia — one person one family, one community at a time.

About the Author Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation

At the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation (LIAF) our mission is to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, and their caregivers. We actively work to achieve this mission through research-based programming for all stages of Alzheimer’s, Caregiver Support Groups, in-home respite solutions, transportation options, and additional services.

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