Music: A powerful medicine for the mind

In life, certain songs remain with us, often jogging a memory, feeling, or sensation that returns at the sound of a familiar tune. For seniors, this experience doesn’t diminish in time, it grows. Listening to and playing music can actually increase the quality of life for older adults. Music has the power to reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness while lessening signs of depression, improve motivation, better a person’s memory, and so much more. It can be powerful form of medicine.

Effects of music on seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia

Music can trigger thoughts and emotions in individuals, including those living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Research suggests that listening to music or singing familiar songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits. Musical memories are often preserved in areas of the brain that are untouched by Alzheimer’s, meaning that the response is unaffected. Music can also provide a way for these individuals to connect and communicate in unconventional ways, when words may not be an effective option at the time. Alzheimer Society Canada has shared a powerful video on the topic of music providing joy and comfort to people with dementia.

Furthermore, the University of Miami School of Medicine conducted a study looking at the effects music therapy has on patients. Results showed that music therapy increased levels of melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and prolactin: brain chemicals are associated with good feelings, improved mood, as well as reduced stress and agitation. Additionally, music can also evoke memories and emotions from the past. For example, songs from childhood or young adulthood have been shown to have positive effects on individuals experiencing advanced stages of dementia.

Trying with a loved one

If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, Mayo Clinic suggests considering these tips:

  1. Think about your loved one’s preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  2. Set the mood. To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that’s soothing. When you’d like to boost your loved one’s mood, use more upbeat or faster-paced music.
  3. 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, which can cause confusion.
  4. 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.
  5. Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship. Some early 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 your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else. Please remember to always consult your family physician for personalized medical advice.

Recognizing World Alzheimer’s Day at Seasons

In light of the upcoming World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21, all 20 Seasons Retirement Communities across Ontario and Alberta have been encouraged to have their Memory Care residents participate in a resident-led choir. The hope would be to promote inclusivity, with the addition of raising awareness.

“Our annual Resident and Family BBQ & Patio Concert got moved indoors this year due to Mother Nature. Yet, that didn’t stop us from bringing down the roof. It was a full house. Our theme for the night was raising funds for Alzheimer’s. In one hour, we raised over $1,000 and the money was still coming in the next day. Our Memory Care residents led the large group in singing 3 songs; the sounds of everyone singing together as one was truly beautiful all-around,” highlighted Karyn Anderson, fun manager at Seasons Royal Oak Village.

Seasons Embrace Today®

The memory care program at Seasons is specifically designed to care for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in a dedicated, secure area within some of our residences. Memory care community residents receive specialized, assisted-living care services. The Seasons Embrace Today® memory care philosophy requires a deep understanding of who our residents are, so staff may adjust their interactions and respond with whatever is needed at the moment. Each of our trained service team members commits to approaching the workday with a promise to do his or her best to make all interactions positive and meaningful, one moment at a time. We believe that when we have positive, authentic relationships among all care partners, it elevates person-centered care, and makes it more meaningful.

Book a personal visit to best determine if Seasons is the right fit for you or your loved one.