One can never overestimate the power of music for people with dementia. Music provides an important connection to memory and can be used in many different ways. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, “Music can be a powerful source of joy and comfort for people with dementia and for those around them. When words fail, music provides a way for the person with dementia to connect with others and engage with memories and emotions.”
Music touches upon our deepest memories, and inspires singing, dancing and relaxation. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioural benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged.
At the McCormick Day Program, we often have musical entertainment to provide a “party” with singing and dancing during our afternoon programming. Attending dances is something that many participants have experienced, and this type of activity is quite popular in the program. We also use music to help clients with relaxation or to create a positive mood. Playing favourite music in a quiet room, on an iPod or softly on the radio or television are quick and easy ways to provide comfort and familiarity for your loved one, as it can help their mood and improve their day. Consider playing music in the background when you are involved in an activity together, such as sharing meals or playing games.
According to Oprah Winfrey, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.” Take the opportunity to learn which songs have most meaning to the person you are caring for. A few examples of this could be a song a parent sang, a song from their wedding, or music they heard on the radio the day their children were born or when they were driving a new car. The experience of hearing a familiar song cannot only awaken a person’s memory, it can help bring about feelings of peace, joy and comfort.