Living Through Dementia
For the Love of Music, and I’ll Tell You Why!
All of us have had lives influenced by music to some degree or another and no matter how music came to be part of our lives it’s not hard to agree that our earliest memories of music were created at a young age. Everyone’s long-term memories hold music!
People living with dementia are no different. However dementia ‘takes’. It takes our social skills, it takes our communication skills, and it takes our desire to get involved with life & the lives of those we love. It takes our ability to start & get going on a daily basis & it takes our short term memories. What it will not ‘take’, that is so infused with emotion, happiness and joy – our music.
For people living with dementia you will find, many times, that their long term musical memories are still good & it’s a wonderful thing!
So why isn’t music ‘taken’ when a person lives with dementia? Studies have shown that music is stored in a part of the brain that is largely unaffected by memory loss caused by dementia. A group of Dartmouth College researchers has learned that the brain's auditory cortex (the music memory center) is the part of the brain that handles information from your ears as early as 16 weeks.So it’s “a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.” states professor Paul Robertson. Our ability to appreciate music does not require cognition it was always there, free to enjoy at any time.
An article in Alzheimer’s News Today by Wendy Henderson points out six areas where benefits can be found for the person living with dementia:
- Music helps to bring back memories and emotions. Everyone has favorite songs that remind them of special times in their lives.
- Ability to listen to and enjoy music is one of the last remaining cognitive skills. When other cognitive skills have declined the aptitude to appreciate music remains.
- Music can help Alzheimer’s patients reconnect with their loved ones. Because music can evoke such positive emotions, it can help people share moments of joy with their loved ones.
- Singing helps to engage the brain. The right side of the brain is used to listen to music, but to sing along requires the left side of the brain to become engaged.
- Music can help manage stress. Music has the ability to lift a person’s mood & make them feel less stressed and agitated.
- Can be used to set the mood. A fast song can help to raise spirits & make people happy, whereas a slower song can help people to relax & calm down any agitation.
The Alzheimer Society of Lanark Leeds Grenville has several opportunities to get involved with music. Our groups bring in live music, giving the opportunity to sing along or dance. Our iPods for Memories program caters to an individual’s specific musical taste, We support several local musical teas that offer a safe atmosphere to enjoy music.
Music is everywhere! Other local agencies promote music programs and almost all churches incorporate music into weekly services.
Submitted by: Sean McFadden, Education Support Coordinator