Can Music Help Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease?

Summary: Musical memories are often preserved in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say listening to music can have a positive impact on emotion and behavior for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to fall off and die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily function.

As many as 5.8 million people in the US were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And this number is expected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

Memory loss is the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. An early sign of the disease is difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairment continues and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home.

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However, musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease. Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety and distress, lightening the mood, and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease—especially those who struggle to communicate.

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It shows a brain in a globe and people walking on it
It shows a brain
However, musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease. Image is in the public domain

If you want to use music to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, consider these tips:

  • 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.
  • Set the mood. To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a soothing song. When you want to improve your loved one’s mood, use more upbeat or faster music.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, cancel out competing sounds. Turn off the TV. Close the door. Adjust the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Choose music that is not interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  • Sing along. Singing along to music with your loved one can boost the mood and improve your relationship. Some early studies also suggest musical memory functions differently from other types of memory, and singing can help stimulate unique memories.
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s reaction. 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.
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About this music and Alzheimer’s disease research news

Writer: Laurel Kelly
Source: Mayo Clinic
Contact: Laurel Kelly – Mayo Clinic
Picture: The image is in the public domain

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