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Music Therapy Works Wonders for Alzheimer’s Patients

Nurses and caregivers are becoming increasingly aware of the effectiveness of music therapy for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, even in its advanced stages. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommends that the appropriate use of music can have a variety of benefits for Alzheimer’s patients, as music has the ability to “shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

We all love to listen to music, and for most of us listening to music can change our mood. We may listen to certain songs to relax, and others for invigoration, and some just make us want to dance. However we are learning more and more that music, or certain frequencies of sound, to be specific, can affect the mind and body in ways previously unknown; it has the ability to heal.

Of course, we know that music can be therapeutic, but it also can actually be utilized effectively in the practice of psychotherapy, as evidenced by clinical research. The field of music therapy, according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), is an “established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.”

The auditory rhythmic cues received through music only require a small amount of cognitive or mental processing, if any at all. As a result, rhythmic responses to certain songs, such as dancing or singing, remain intact as Alzheimer’s progresses, and can even facilitate the recollection of lost memories. It is important to note that every individual is different, thus a happy, joyful song for one person may be bring about painful memories for another (Alzheimer’s Foundation of America).

Rita Altman, R.N. is the vice president of memory care and programming at Sunrise Senior Living, which operates many residential communities for seniors across the U.S., as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. Altman recently wrote a blog for the Huffington Post describing the amazing power of music and its role in Sunrise’s Alzheimer’s and Memory Care program. She recalls witnessing phenomena, such as patients “who can no longer speak in a full sentence, but still can sing an entire song” or have “advanced memory loss [but] beautifully play an entire piece on a piano” (Altman).

Additionally, through the power of websites like YouTube, we are able to catch a glimpse of the remarkable effects music can have on memory care and mental health as a whole. Videos show elderly nursing home patients who at first appear lonely and withdrawn, but through listening to their favorite songs they are able to connect to past memories and feelings of joy.

One such video tells the story of Gladys Wilson, an extremely withdrawn Alzheimer’s patient who is virtually non-verbal. Naomi Feil, M.S.W., has been working closely with the elderly for decades, specifically the severely disoriented, and is the creator of Validation therapy. Remarkably, Feil is able to connect with Gladys through singing her favorite religious songs, while matching Gladys’ tempo. Watch the video here.

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide digital music for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other mental/physical challenges to improve their daily lives.

In 2011, Music & Memory shot a video chronicling Henry, an elderly man who has been suffering from dementia for a decade, and has been viewed by millions on YouTube. Henry is withdrawn; he struggles to communicate verbally and rarely speaks to anyone. However, when Music & Memory is able to provide him with an iPod containing his favorite music, the drastic change in Henrys demeanor, mood, and speech is awesome; watch it here.

Music & Memory has been able to donate and implement iPods in over 140 facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. You can donate your old iPods or money for new ones to Music & Memory here.

These videos are both amazing and inspirational; they are prime examples of how music therapy can establish a connection when verbal communication cannot and how music can provide hope and joy amid the isolation and pain of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The late Bob Marley said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

 

 

Works Cited:

Altman, Rita. “The Powerful Effects of Music in Memory Care.” 24 July 2013. The Huffington Post – The Blog. 25 July 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rita-altman-rn/music-and-memory_b_3639805.html>.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “Education and Care – Music Therapy.” 2013. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America – Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving support. 25 July 2013 <http://www.alzfdn.org/EducationandCare/musictherapy.html>.

American Music Therapy Association. “Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy .” 2013, American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). 24th July 2013 <http://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/>.

Feil, Naomi. “What is Validation.” 2013, Validation Training Institute. 29 July 2013 <https://vfvalidation.org/web.php?request=what_is_validation>.

Music & Memory. “Music & Memory Mission and Vision.” 2013, Music & Memory. 29 July 2013 <http://musicandmemory.org/about/mission-and-vision/>.

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A staff writer here at T4A, Roscoe enjoys investigating and writing on a variety of topics concerning addiction and mental health. His articles cover everything from the latest news stories to his own experiences with addiction and/or mental illness. He is a recovering alcoholic from New York, NY who is grateful not only to be sober, but also to have a life back. His interests include reading, writing, running, and anything involving the outdoors. Now that he is sober, he hopes to graduate college in the next few years with a degree in Business. He strives daily maintain a positive attitude and to work on himself; to make up for all of his past wrongdoings, and to give back by helping those who are struggling. Roscoe cherishes the opportunity to share his thoughts and ideas through the T4A blog, and welcomes any sort of feedback from readers!

Filed under: Conditions and Disorders, Mental Illness, Recovery, Research · Tags: alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s, American Music Therapy Association, dementia, Gladys Wilson, healing, memory, mental illness, music, music & memory, Naomi Feil, psychotherapy, Rita Altman, therapy, Validation Therapy