The healing power of music is something we have all heard discussed or experienced. Music can lift our spirits, wring emotions from our hearts, and touch us deeply and fundamentally in a way that transcends the physical world.
This phenomenon isn’t new. People have always known that music can affect our state of mind. Shamans and traditional healers still use music and chanting in their ceremonies.
The first ever hospitals in the Muslim world incorporated music as part of their treatment. In the middle ages, Muslim doctors had discovered the therapeutic effects of music on patients suffering from mental disorders, well ahead of the West.
Modern medicine has continued the tradition. Our understanding of music and the way it works on us has deepened with time, giving us a new tool in our arsenal towards improving the lives of our patients, especially the elderly.
Transporting to Another Time
A very interesting discovery has been the effect music has on memory. Music leaves an emotional imprint that tends to pass the test of time. The music we danced to at our wedding, the first tune we heard when we went on a first date, that cool track that defined a particular year for us, stays with us and helps imprint memories that are more vivid and durable.
The moment we hear a particular tune, our memory wakens, and we are transported towards an associated moment. The memories are so clear and vivid that even small details can be recollected with ease. It can be so vivid that it seems as if we are reliving the moment. It can take us back to that summer we spent at the beach, or that moment we fell in love while dancing with our future spouse.
Dementia and Music
Patients who have dementia are no exception. This YouTube video shows a senior named Henry who has dementia. Previously very withdrawn and uncommunicative, Henry received an iPod through the Music & Memory program with a music library that featured music from his epoch.
As Henry starts to listen to the iPod, a miraculous change takes place. The reticent senior suffering from dementia comes to life before our eyes. He starts speaking and reminiscing about how much he loved to dance and listen to music.
A simple tune was able to transport a long-term dementia patient to a happier time in an instant. This is the true power and magic of music, and this is why music is such an important aspect when caring for seniors who have dementia.
The effects of music on the mind cannot be overstated. Its use as therapy for seniors who have dementia and various mood disorders has to be taken seriously.
Music is Curative
Many theories circulate the miraculous effects music has on the minds of people living with dementia. The most current is that because music tends to register in multiple places in the brain, hearing music can access areas that remain undamaged amongst dementia patients, releasing pent-up emotions and hidden memories as a result.
However, the curative effects of music do not stop there. It has been proven that music is a great mood influencer. It can calm us when we are agitated, and it can excite us as well, depending on the tune used. These effects seem to hold true for patients with dementia as well.
This phenomenon of appeasement that seems to come over the patients as they listen to a particular musical piece has been used by caregivers for a long time now. They have found that it is better for both the caregiver and the patient to work while listening to calming and appeasing music. This is especially true when dealing with agitated patients or stressful situations, such as trying to provide the right type of care when you have other important things going on in your life.
This is the premise of such nonprofit organizations as the Music & Memory Program, which provide iPods to seniors, in the hope and expectation of improving their overall quality of life through the power of music.
Music in Senior Care Homes
Senior care facilities have also come to appreciate the remarkable improvement brought to their residents’ life experience through music therapy. The results have been so spectacular that, in some cases, music therapy has been more effective in combating depression than the traditional and very expensive mood-altering medication in use today.
Some argue that there is no better way to create an atmosphere amongst any group of people than playing a common piece of music. This appears to hold true for seniors, which is why many senior care facilities tend to play period music for their residents. In so doing, they help create a calming and reassuring overall atmosphere for their residence. In fact, if you are researching senior care homes, and trying to see what problems each home has, make sure to find out if they incorporate music into their senior care programs.
Next time you’re visiting with a senior, remember to listen to music together and see how this may change your interaction for the better. Contact one of our experienced geriatric care managers if you are looking for helpful tips on caring for seniors with disabilities.