People with dementia have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, in fact, studies show that Coronavirus-related depression can worsen dementia symptoms. There is further research to prove that Covid-19 may increase a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. Dementia experts globally, have expressed concerns around the link between dementia and the neurological symptoms of COVID-19.
Recent studies have shown that music can unlock memories and be a powerful tool in improving the lives of people with dementia. Therefore, Abbots Care have launched a campaign for Dementia Action week, to educate people and build awareness of how music can be an invaluable tool in improving dementia sufferer’s lives; able to improve health and wellbeing.
What is Music Therapy for Dementia?
Music therapy is uniquely flexible and can be tailored to the specific tastes and needs of an individual. It’s also a highly valuable tool, offering proven benefits to health and wellbeing. As such, music therapy for dementia can take many forms.
Whether participation in a choir, playing a musical instrument, or simply listening to a favourite song, music therapy for dementia can serve as an emotionally rewarding, cognitively stimulating activity. Listening or engaging with any music can help dementia sufferers express their feelings and ideas non-verbally and verbally. As such, a United States study found that people that learn to play a music instrument in later life, are a third less likely to develop dementia.
Effects of Music Therapy on Dementia
Of late, there have been numerous studies exploring the effects of music on dementia. For example, research has shown that music lights up parts of the brain that cannot be stimulated by anything else. Of course, that’s not to lessen the importance of those other forms, but to highlight the unique power of music.
Living with dementia can be disheartening. But music can help by triggering the release of endorphins – our natural feel-good hormones – resulting in an overall reduction of anxiety, depression, and more general agitation, as well as helping to maintain speech and language.
Music stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously. And this carries major benefits for people living with dementia. When both sides of the brain are stimulated, our attention span lengthens, and our focus sharpens. It’s why so many listen to music whilst working or studying – even if they don’t realise it. Practically, this means that by listening to – or even playing – music, people with dementia can see a dramatic improvement in their ability to concentrate.
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia. A Finnish study showed that listening to Mozart music can enhance gene activity in areas of the brain linked to learning and memory. Personalised music can also provide drastic improvements and the best outcome in improving mood, reducing agitation, and reducing dementia symptoms.
Additionally, live music may be more beneficial than pre-recorded music. A study found that live interactive music had immediate and positive engagement effects in subjects with apathy, regardless of the severity of their dementia.
It’s often noted that our sense of smell is most closely tied to memory, able the transport us to specific times and places. But music possesses this power, too. In fact, music has been proven to aid the brain in retrieving specific memories and the emotions associated with them. For example, a song played at someone’s wedding can trigger vivid memories of their first dance. Likewise, a chart-topper from someone’s youth can bring forth memories of summers gone by and the people they were spent with. As such, it’s important to be mindful of any songs that may trigger negative emotions in a person.
Aside from the more cognitive links between music and dementia, it’s worth noting the profound improvement to a person’s overall wellbeing that participating in music can have. Whether it’s the uplifting effect of singing in a choir or playing in a band, or the understated joy of listening to an old favourite on a lazy afternoon, listening to music touches us in ways that no other medium can.
Music is a valuable social activity. An opportunity for reflection. Comfort on a difficult day; music can be each of these things at any given time, and that is a highly valuable notion for people living with dementia.
Music can have a profound impact on dementia – providing a platform for self-expression and reconnecting people to their pasts. It’s a universal language, understood by everyone without the need for so much as a word. And by improving health and wellbeing, stimulating memory, and reducing anxiety, it’s a powerful tool for combating the symptoms of dementia.
For more information about Abbots Care’s dementia and music awareness campaign, visit: https://abbotscare.com/music-and-dementia/