Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

What You Need to Know about Music Therapy for Dementia


There’s nothing much better than a long lazy Sunday afternoon licking back and relaxing with your favorite tunes on full blast. We’ve all done it. Since the earliest dawn of civilization, humans have been drawn to creating sound. Some experts believe our deep need for rhythm and beat as part of our inner expression comes from our time in utero. 

This may be true when music as a form of expression is so ubiquitous and so deeply ingrained into every culture but even now, science struggles with how exactly music therapy works. But one thing is for sure, it really helps boost brain activity and improves living for people suffering from dementia.   

Music and Emotion

Experts believe music therapy is particularly beneficial for older adults struggling with different types of dementia. Therapists therefore, use music therapy as a purposeful target-oriented activity utilizing musical expression as well as the emotions, memories and sensations the music evokes.

Therapists use music in different ways to achieve desired results. For instance, it is common to use old wartime songs with older adults to stimulate memories. It works because music has a direct relationship with memory and unconscious emotions. These feelings can be extremely strong and even for someone who struggles with short term memory, these long term memories can be recalled clearly and vividly.

Therapists believe it is possible to live better with dementia and enjoy a greater quality of life by being involved in music-making experiences – although music therapy is just as effective when someone listens to music that is relevant to them. The correct use of music therapy empowers sufferers and provided a stimulus to break the social isolation created by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also offer many other benefits directly related to a patient’s overall mental and physical wellbeing. For instance:

  • Music therapy for dementia helps with overall recall.
  • It boosts mood and prompts a positive change in a sufferer’s emotional state.
  • It provides patients with a sense of control.
  • Music therapy provides a non-pharmacological approach to managing discomfort and pain.
  • When the music used is relevant, it stimulates and activates interest even when other stimuli fail.
  • Music can be responded to actively through dance and movement to help maintain physical health.
  • Using sing-along music therapy helps practice and maintain recall, vocal fluency and inner expression.

Music as therapy isn’t a new idea but it is one that as stood the test of time. With visible results, even short term, there was never any doubt that music reached people. Now, with the steep increase in early diagnosis of dementia, there has been an impetus for more research and the therapy offered these days works even better. Because of MRI technologically researchers understand how music is linked neurologically to memory and emotion. They also understand how musical tastes become set during our early twenties and this is the music a person will best respond too. In short, music therapy works because it takes a person right back to those long lazy Sundays.


Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash






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