As a way of helping care for and support people living with dementia, music has been shown to have an amazing effect. Whether it’s 60s soul, jazz classics, or childhood memories, music can soothe, stimulate and bring to mind beautiful memories. It has a wonderful benefit and to people supporting those living with dementia, many can see the wonderful positive effect it has on their loved ones or clients’ minds and mental well-being.
Music for anyone at any age can be a relaxing and beneficial pastime. However, for people living with dementia it has a number of benefits! Firstly, music can trigger positive feelings and help individuals connect with other people, improving overall quality of life. It can help to reduce anxiety and depression and help to maintain speech and language. Additionally, it also has a positive impact on carers and loved ones.
Vicki Fenton, who is a family carer wonderfully supporting both her mum and dad who are living with Alzheimer’s disease at different stages, refers to how music benefits her parents;
“The effect that music has on my parents’ lives is astounding! Particularly for my mum who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It has the power to completely change her mood when nothing else will. My parents have always loved music and dancing throughout their lives. Having music on in their house really cheers them up and I have set up a playlist on their speaker which has over 100 songs from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s which I can even put on remotely for them.
My Dad, who has mid-stage Alzheimer’s type dementia, gets very low in mood some days but I often find that when the music is playing he is singing and smiling. We have music on in the car also whenever we travel with my parents, it really helps to keep the mood happy when conversation is now limited due to their dementia. Mum also often sings along to the words of a song and I find this so incredible as she does not really speak in full sentences anymore and struggles to find the right words to express herself. My dad sings along to every song. This is very good for stimulating the brain!”
The psychology of understanding why music has such an impact is that memories are unlocked as grey matter is stimulated, which is becoming an increasingly key feature of dementia care. The auditory system of the brain is the first to fully develop in infancy, which means that you are receptive to music and song long before most other executive functions. So during the dementia-type breakdown of memory, music reception is often the last feature to dissolve. Music seems to reach parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot, which makes it pretty powerful!
Playlist for Life have a range of wonderful free resources for people living with dementia to remain connected to music. A playlist of personally meaningful music can help people living with dementia by maintaining their sense of identity. The wonderful charity also runs a series of free webinars. One is for Care Professionals and they do it on the first Tuesday of every month. The other is a webinar for those who are living with dementia and/or their family members and friends. This webinar is run once a quarter.
We are lucky in Havering to have a range of social support groups specific to supporting people living with dementia and their carers and loved ones to remain connected to live music, instruments, dancing, and each other. The Havering Singing for the Brain group and The Dementia Music and Social Club are both run weekly by groups of dedicated volunteers, at different times and settings, both providing a wonderful and unique experience for all attendees.
Vicki Fenton regularly attends both groups with her parents and says that both are wonderful environments;
“We attend both groups at least once a week and it has become a lifeline to us, not only for the benefit that the music has on my parents’ moods, but also for the social aspect; being with others who are experiencing the same effects that dementia has on their everyday lives – both carers and cared for and being able to chat and give advice to each other is so helpful. The club’s volunteers really do welcome and look after the attendees and it’s so nice to see them chatting, singing and dancing instead of being stuck indoors with no stimulation.
One example of this would be just this week when I took Mum along to the club. Mum really struggled to get out of the car and to walk into the hall, she has very reduced mobility and was tired that day so I was worried that I should not be taking her out of the comfort of her home. She walked into the hall with assistance very slowly and nervously and we sat down with a cup of tea and listened to the singer, who was performing a song from the 1960’s (Mum was born in 1941). Mum’s mood was instantly uplifted and we helped her to stand, almost immediately her legs began to move and she was stepping to the beat of the music and smiling! The complete change in my Mum’s whole demeanour was quite amazing!”
The special impact of music for individuals living with dementia is something that cannot be simply described with words, it is truly amazing and attending a local social support group or engaging with different music-related resources can help anyone living with dementia to age well.
If you would like to find out more about Radfield Home Care Havering and how we could support you or your loved one with dementia care, please visit our services page, email us at [email protected] or call us on 01708 609364.
Get in touch with your local Radfield Home Care office today and find out more about the support we offer and the difference we can make.