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Music and Memory for Dementia

How can music help people who have Alzheimer’s disease?

Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease. This makes musical memory surprisingly robust in different types of dementia.
Music can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation. When a family member or dear friend develops Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the experience is often overwhelming and stressful for everyone involved. Using music can help manage the emotional distress that comes with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Here are some ways to use music in the care of a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia:

  1. Create a personalized playlist.

    What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? Is there a type of music that evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  1. Set the mood.

    Calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine with soothing music. When you’d like to boost your loved one’s mood, use more upbeat or faster paced music.
  1. Avoid overstimulation.

    When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV, shut the door, set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials or ads, which can cause confusion.
  1. Encourage movement.

    Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  1. Sing along.

    Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship. Singing can help stimulate unique memories.
  1. Pay attention to your loved one’s response.

    If your loved one enjoys particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song, or type of music, choose something else.
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