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Music moves us beyond dementia

 In News

A while back my mother had an episode with seizure and dementia.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a permanent health situation, but it started me thinking of the future if this should happen again. How will I know how to comfort and help in her emotional care? So, whenever the news highlights a new breakthrough for helping patients with dementia I take note.  Not for my today, but as a preparation of research for the future.

Recent news feeds show us that music may be a piece of wiring in the brain that isn’t disconnected by dementia. Amazing! Through hearing experiences of friends, the way a person declines with dementia-related illness seems to remove joy from a personality.  I have always been able to tie my mother’s happiness to music. It is the natural way that she enjoys her life now. Could it heIp my mom if her memory declines or if she has another episode with seizures? I was excited to learn more.

All over the country there are elder care and dementia care facilities using different methods to reach patients that do not involve pharmaceutical medicine. The more that researchers explore the mysterious world of the brain, the more we can begin to understand how to reach people who may seem unreachable.  Music, art and movement therapies are all a part of larger studies happening right now.

What we know

Here is the summary of learning from the Alzheimer’s Association about how to choose music for a person with dementia.

  • Identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person. If possible, let the person choose the music.
  • Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.  
  • Use music to create the mood you want. For example, a tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment, while a faster paced song from someone’s childhood may boost spirit and evoke happy memories.
  • Encourage movement (clapping, dancing) to add to the enjoyment.
  • Avoid sensory overload; eliminate competing noises by shutting windows and doors and by turning off the television. Make sure the volume of the music is not too loud.

Now I think that even better than thinking about a playlist, I should take instrument lessons! If I learn how to play simple songs that can be shared on a guitar or other portable instrument, then playing for her will create memory that sticks for my future mental health! I will start to pay attention to my mother’s music choices a little more now and find a way to bring her music happiness to life now, and in the future.

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