Music Therapy in Dementia Care: Benefits and Implementation

Music has a powerful impact on people with dementia, evoking emotions, triggering memories, and fostering connections. Music therapy, a structured and evidence-based approach, holds great potential to enhance the well-being and quality of life for people living with dementia. In this article, we will explore the role of music therapy in dementia care, including its benefits and practical implementation.

1. Emotional and Cognitive Benefits:

Music therapy can evoke a wide range of emotions, providing people with dementia an outlet for expression and connection. It can reduce anxiety, agitation, and depression while promoting positive mood states. Additionally, engaging with music stimulates cognitive abilities, improves attention and memory, and encourages overall mental stimulation.

2. Triggering Memories and Enhancing Communication:

Music has the ability to unlock memories associated with specific songs or periods in life. Through familiar tunes and lyrics, people with dementia can recall personal experiences, engage in conversations, and foster connections with loved ones and caregivers. Music serves as a non-verbal communication channel, bridging the gap when verbal expression becomes challenging.

See the wonderful work of the late Naomi Fell  www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrZXz10FcVM

3. Encouraging Social Interaction:

Group music therapy sessions provide opportunities for social engagement, promoting interaction and a sense of community. Singing together, playing instruments, and participating in rhythmic activities foster a shared experience, decrease social isolation, and enhance social bonds among people with dementia and their caregivers.

4. Managing Challenging Behaviours:

Music therapy can help manage challenging behaviours commonly associated with dementia, such as agitation and restlessness. Calming melodies, soothing rhythms, and personalised playlists tailored to individual preferences can help relaxation, reduce agitation, and create a tranquil environment.

Anglia Ruskin University has been involved in research showing that music can reduce agitation on inpatient wards.

5. Individualised and Person-Centred Approach:

Music therapy in dementia care is highly individualised, focusing on each person’s unique preferences, memories, and emotional responses. Therapists assess musical preferences and collaborate with individuals, their families, and caregivers to develop personalised playlists and activities that resonate with their personal history and interests.

6. Implementation in Care Settings:

Music therapy can be implemented in various care settings, including nursing homes, memory care units, and home-based care. Certified music therapists design and facilitate sessions that cater to the specific needs and abilities of people with dementia. Implementing music therapy may involve one-on-one sessions, group sessions, or a combination of both.

Norfdoff and Robbins have some beautiful videos of music therapy  www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk/stories/mays-story/

7. Creating Musical Playlists:

Caregivers and family members can create personalised musical playlists for people with dementia. These playlists can include songs from their youth, favourite artists, or music associated with significant life events. Digital music players or stream services make it convenient to access and organise personalised playlists.

8. Collaborating with Music Therapists:

Engaging the services of certified music therapists is beneficial for maximising the benefits of music therapy. Music therapists have specialised training and expertise in designing and implementing therapeutic interventions tailored to the unique needs of individuals with dementia. They can provide guidance, structure, and evaluation of the therapy process.

9. Ongoing Assessment and Adaptation:

Regular assessment and adaptation of music therapy interventions are essential. As dementia progresses, individuals’ preferences, abilities, and responses may change. Caregivers, family members, and music therapists should collaborate to ensure the music therapy program remains meaningful and effective.

10. Integration into Daily Care:

Integrate music into daily care routines. Play background music during meals, provide headphones for personal listening, or engage in musical activities during leisure time. Incorporating music into everyday life enriches the environment, promotes well-being, and offers moments of joy and connection.

Conclusion:

Music therapy offers a range of benefits in dementia care, enhancing emotional well-being, communication, and social interaction. By incorporating personalised music playlists, collaborating with certified music therapists, and integrating music into daily care routines, caregivers can harness the power of music to positively impact the lives of individuals with dementia. Music has the ability to evoke memories, create connections, and provide comfort, fostering a sense of joy and well-being for individuals living with dementia.

You may find these dementia care services in Norfolk useful

www.musicalkeys.co.uk/services – Music groups for all ages, including a dementia group on the first Friday of the month in central Norwich, or 1 to 1 home visits.

Diss Dove Song Plus on the third Wednesday of the month in Diss United Reform Church

Diss Dove Song Plus! | Norfolk Community Directory

Many Dementia Cafes also use music in their settings.  You’ll find Purely Care at the Boundary dementia support sessions on the second Tuesday of every month from 10.30am to 12.30pm.