Music & The Brain: Why Melodies Move Us & Benefit People with Dementia

Think of your favorite song. Chances are, it reminds you of a special someone, time or place in your life. Your favorite artist might evoke joy, heartbreak, longing or contentment – all with one cherished album. Did you know that meaningful music can move your loved one in much the same way, well into the late stages of dementia? That’s because musical aptitude and appreciation are among the last abilities lost to dementia, according to a study by researchers from George Mason University and others. Without requiring conscious thought, music stimulates many parts of the brain, prompting responses to rhythm and repetition, tones and tunes. Those rhythms and tones are what cause us to feel emotion, move our feet, smile, clap, sing … and remember. Music can move the immobile, calm the anxious, give memory to the forgetful, provide words to the aphasic, and bring colors to the blind. The impact of music can be profound at times and inexplicable at others, but sometimes no explanation is necessary. “Musical connections are deeply personal,” says Michelle Straughn, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida. “One song can make people feel and react very differently. The key is to find the music that moves your loved one and lifts their spirits.” Play Your Loved One’s Song Finding out which type of music soothes and makes your loved one happy will help you create personalized playlists full of meaningful songs that can have many positive effects, including: • Improved mood and attention • Increased socialization and communication • Higher quality of life and well-being • Reduction in pain • Improved sleep Create Personalized Playlists Take some notes from MUSIC & MEMORY® when creating your loved one’s playlists. • Download iTunes or another music app. With apps, you’ll be able to access your loved one’s music on your computer, tablet or smartphone anywhere, anytime. This is perfect for car trips or noisy restaurants, as headphones can be plugged into these devices for personal enjoyment. Asking a grandchild to help download and organize the chosen songs can also provide a meaningful way for them to connect with their loved and hear about the stories behind the music. • Make the playlist meaningful. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in their life? Let them have as much input as possible. You can ask: o What music did you listen to when you were young? o Did you sing at religious services? o What were your favorite hymns or other religious music? o Do you still have any records or tapes that were favorites? o Who was your favorite performer, group, band or orchestra? o Do you have a favorite classical composer? o What songs did you dance to at your wedding or prom, or in dance halls or clubs? Music to Their Ears … and Souls The Mayo Clinic outlines how to implement music therapy for optimum results. • Set the mood. Play soothing music during mealtimes if your loved one is a reluctant eater, or sing a familiar, upbeat song while brushing their teeth. Music can create a pleasant ambiance and associate necessary routines with positive experiences. When you'd like to boost your loved one's mood, play faster-paced music. You can make multiple playlists, one for each time of day or to accompany certain activities, for example. • Avoid overstimulation. This can cause frustration or anxiety. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one's hearing ability and comfort level. Play CDs or use music apps that aren’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion. • Encourage movement. Help your loved one clap along or tap their feet to the beat. If their physical health allows, help them dance or sway in place. • Sing along. Singing a song with your loved one can boost the mood and strengthen your relationship. Some studies also suggest musical memory functions differently than other types of memory, and singing can help stimulate unique memories. • Pay attention to your loved one's response. If they seem to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If they react negatively, choose something else and make a note to remove it from the playlist. Bonus Track: Community Music Programs Foster Socialization Check out your local senior centers, YMCA or memory care assisted living communities for group music programs designed to benefit seniors with dementia. These might include drumming circles, therapeutic singing or music relaxation sessions. “Adding meaningful music to your loved one’s daily life is not only extremely beneficial but also one of the easiest and most cost-effective – often free – therapies available,” says YourLife™ of Tallahassee’s Michelle Straughn. “Turn it on, turn it up, and help make your loved one’s day a more pleasant, peaceful and positive one.” For more tips on how to boost your loved one’s spirits and overall well-being with music and song, call YourLifeTM of Tallahassee’s life enrichment team at 850-250-5671. Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the very best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention and resources into creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. We see each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can provide assistance with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our personal touch doesn’t stop at our care. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.