If you’ve ever heard a song on the radio and instantly recalled sights, sounds and feelings from another time and place, you’ve experienced the deep connection music has to memory and emotion. Moreover, as Harvard Health suggests, music doesn’t just help us access our memories; it may also help us form new ones.
When you listen to music, you activate regions of the brain associated with memory, emotion, reasoning, speech and reward. That's one reason why music has become such an integral part of memory care. Mayo Clinic notes that in individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease, regions of the brain that are linked to musical memory often remain relatively undamaged, preserving precious memories. Consequently, for individuals living with memory impairments, music may provide surprising benefits, including:
If you’re a caregiver, engaging in musical activities with your loved one may also lighten the mood and offer ways to communicate and connect more easily, often reducing your stress levels as a consequence.
Assisted living and memory care communities such as those at Park Regency in Loveland often incorporate musical activities into their enrichment programs to engage residents and encourage socialization, but at-home caregivers can also reap the benefits of music. If you’re caring for a loved one with a memory impairment, here are four simple ways to incorporate music into your routine:
Whether you choose hymns, childhood favorites, TV theme songs or golden oldies, sing-alongs can be an enriching activity for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders. Even individuals who struggle to remember people and events may recall the lyrics to their favorite songs. And, because music may inspire hand clapping, toe tapping and swaying, sing-alongs can add physical activity to a housebound senior’s routine. Sing-alongs may also benefit nonverbal seniors, who may be inspired to dance, clap or hum along to the song,
If you or a family member play a musical instrument, providing accompaniment to a sing-along can be a great way to connect with your loved ones. If live accompaniment isn’t an option, consider a sing-along CD. Companies such as Memory Lane Therapy, make sing-along compilations designed specifically for seniors.
Seniors with memory disorders may benefit from casually playing musical instruments, which can provide a gateway to creative expression and nonverbal communication. Music therapists even use drumming sessions to help seniors vent negative emotions. Research also suggests that rhythmic cues may offer a way to retrain an individual’s brain after a stroke or other neurological episode, aiding in recovery.
Call-and-response musical play using instruments can also be a pathway to connection with a nonverbal loved one, so if you’re setting up a jam session at home, consider inviting friends and family members to participate. Be sure to provide simple instruments, which are easy play and less likely to be overwhelming. Instruments that are perfect for seniors include:
To create an ideal environment, minimize background noise and other distractions by turning off the TV and silencing the ringer on your cell phone.
Music therapists sometimes use songwriting techniques to encourage self-expression and promote communication. Creating simple lyrics, which you and a loved one can sing, can be done easily at home using several simple techniques.
Musical activities don’t always have to require participation to provide benefits. By playing a loved one’s favorite music, you may be able to increase their comfort levels and make it easier for them to access happy memories.
Whether it's the familiarity of the lyrics, the predictability of the rhythm or the emotional connection we inevitably form to songs, music can bring comfort to seniors receiving memory care at home or in a residential setting. If you walk through the halls in the Park Regency community, you’ll often hear music playing. Residents may also benefit from our formal music therapy program and other enriching programs such as pet and art therapies, live entertainment and outings into the nearby community.
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