The Positive Impact Music Can Have on Those Living with Dementia

Music plays a special part in our lives. You’ll never forget going to your first concert, the first dance at your wedding, or seeing your own child’s small body twirl on stage at their first ballet recital. Music has an invaluable, intangible, and almost unexplainable presence in our lives; it elicits a feeling of warmth and familiarity. 

Music also has a particular value in individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive impairments. Like everyone else, music can make those with dementia feel safe and familiar, but research also shows that music can manage behavioral problems, reduce stress and agitation, and even promote memories. 

As a Life Plan Community in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, Uplands Village offers memory care to individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Our unique program allows those with dementia to experience joy, relive treasured memories, communicate in new ways, reduce feelings of stress, and reconnect with others. One of the ways we do this is with music programming. 

The Connection Between Music and Dementia 

Much research shows evidence that music—listening to, playing, or singing—can significantly benefit those with dementia or memory impairment. While Alzheimer’s disease alters many parts of the brain, the main areas associated with music remain undamaged—meaning that musical memories are often preserved. This explains why many individuals with dementia may struggle to remember what they had for dinner last week but can remember all the words to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon.” For many, music is as familiar and comforting as an old blanket or best friend. 

In addition to eliciting specific memories, music can also have an overall calming and positive effect. It can reduce stress and anxiety, calm agitation, and prevent other challenging behaviors. 

In general, listening to music has a powerful impact on those living with dementia. In one study, a man with dementia said, “medications have horrible side effects such as sleepiness, and music focuses me differently from reading a newspaper. I get carried away singing you don’t want to stop.”

Incorporating Music Into Dementia Care

If you care for a parent or family member with dementia, there are simple ways to use music to liven their mood and create bonding moments. You can weave music into your regular daily routine, playing something light and upbeat as you wake up and get ready for the day and playing something relaxing when it’s time to get ready for bed. You can also play favorite or meaningful songs and share memories, asking questions like: 

  • What memories does this song evoke? 
  • How did you feel when you used to listen to this song? 
  • How does listening to this song make you feel now? 

Of course, there’s also value in creating your own music! Grab some simple instruments like shakers or small drums and play your own songs. You can even have an art activity where you make your own instruments

Music Therapy at Uplands Village 

At Uplands Village, our memory care neighborhood employs unique and innovative methods of dementia care and programming. Using Eden Alternative® philosophies, we host person-centered activities and programs that engage the mind, body, and soul, including music programming. We are proud to offer a unique program, Music and Memory®, which provides each dementia care resident with an iPod that includes personalized songs and playlists designed to tap into their memories, engage with others, and reconnect with their own identities. 

These custom playlists can help our residents learn to communicate in new ways, enhance confidence and familiarity, and allow them to have a good time with their favorite songs! Many things can seem lost to those with dementia, but music can help them find memories, joy, and themselves. 

In addition to the Music and Memory® program, our memory care community in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, encourages engagement and confidence through other programs, like fitness activities, interior gardens, and multi-sensory experiences. Combined, these programs create a comprehensive and supportive environment for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 

To learn more about how we incorporate music into our memory care program at Uplands Village, we encourage you to contact our team of memory care experts.