By 2021, the total number of people with dementia is predicted to reach in excess of 1 million. In the later stages of dementia, people often lose the ability to share emotions with their loved ones. This can be one of the hardest parts of loving someone with memory loss. Whilst there are still no long-term cures, understanding ways of alleviating the symptoms are becoming more available and accessible.
One such method, that is increasingly being used in dementia care, is music. Recent studies, have shown how listening to music, especially singing, have been hugely effective in reaching parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication could not.
Memory and music are very closely connected in the brain. Music has been found to evoke strong emotions, emotions associated with memory. So often, these memories are linked to the the fond happy times of a person’s life.
Musical aptitude and appreciation of music is also two of the very last remaining abilities found in those with late stage dementia. Meaning, that even when your loved ones are no longer able to speak or walk, they can find great comfort in listening to music.
Music activates the right side of your brain, responsible for creativity and imagination. It also requires little to no mental processing. Pairing music with daily activities such as dressing, bathing and even walking, has also been found to help ignite memory. It has also been found to help individuals develop a rhythm, which in long-run can help improve cognitive ability.
Singing, along with music, has also been found to be a great way of engaging your brain. Unlike music, singing activates the left side of the brain, responsible for logic, language and reasoning. By singing along to music, you engage both parts of your brain. When your loved one can sing along to their favourite song, their brains are being stimulated. This type of therapy has been found to help improve, or even prevent the regression of speaking skills, thought-processing skills and memory organisation.
The benefits have of this type of therapy have greatly impacted emotional and social function within homes. For this reason, more and more residential and care homes are placing a greater focus on music therapy as part of our patients care.
Dementia UK has an entire web page dedicated to music therapy in dementia patients. Other organisations such as Singing for the Brain, Music for Life, Lost Chord and Golden Oldies have been hugely successful in giving greater access to music therapy in care homes and restbites.
The gift of music is a wonderful thing, and the joy and comfort it can bring is a gift for the entire family. It crosses all generations, and could become one of the most powerful memories you continue to share with your love one.