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Music Could Help Dementia Patients

Music Could Help Dementia Patients

Unless an individual happens to be very wealthy, chances are that when “old age” hits they are going to see the inside of a retirement or nursing home. Having worked in one for a short time when I was younger, I have determined that I would rather pass into the great beyond than through the doors of a nursing home.

Granted I was only 17 when I came to work as an assistant activities coordinator and was totally unfamiliar with this type of place. It only took two weeks of this experience before I broke down in tears and told my boss that I would not be coming back. I can only hope that places like that no longer exist, but I am afraid that they still do.

Many patients who come to live in facilities for the elderly have no family. They live out the rest of their lives in places where they have no visitors or much interaction throughout the day. If they come in with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease it tends to get progressively worse each day that goes by. That is, until the music is turned on.

As an assistant to the activities director it was my job once a day, to bring the patients out of their rooms and into the activity room. I would read to them or just tell them stories, which they seemed to like but would not cause any flickers of life behind their eyes. Turn on the music and it was a completely different story; arms and legs would start moving and smiles would come to their faces. There was one woman who never moved or spoke at all (except to throw her food on you once and a while), but when the music was playing her head would bop along with everyone else.

Research has proven that hearing music can bring life back to those who are unresponsive, such as patients in late stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Music can be associated with particular memories, so hearing a piece of music can remind one of happier times even when the individual cannot seem to remember much of anything. It is also important to remember that music can also be associated with sad memories so anyone providing music for a patient should watch closely for signs of distress or agitation.

Music therapy can be an interesting career path for anyone with a degree in music, and it is not only used for dementia patients. Those who come back from war suffering from PTSD can also benefit from music therapy, as can children with learning disabilities, those with substance abuse issues, people who suffer from brain injuries, and even mothers experiencing pain from labor. An education in music can also benefit children in general as musical study can enhance studies in language and vocabulary.

Music has amazing abilities; it can calm us down after a day of stress, make us happy when we hear a particular song, and even reach those individuals who seem unapproachable. “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song.”

Music Could Help Dementia Patients Credit Picture License: fechi fajardo via photopin cc

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