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Music Therapy & Dementia

Music and Dementia

Dementia is a progressive neurological disorder and currently affects more than 800,000 adults in the UK. This figure is forecast to rise rapidly over the coming years. 80% of people suffering from the disease also experience neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, aggression, depression, anxiety, apathy and psychosis.

Music therapists use specific techniques to not only help address and alleviate neuropsychiatric symptoms, but to also promote cognition, independence and wellbeing. Research has found that engaging in cognitive activities, such as music, on a regular basis can help to delay the onset of accelerated memory decline.


Boosting Mood and Reducing Anxiety

Musical memory is considered to be partly independent from other memory systems in the brain, and is surprisingly preserved in people with dementia. Using long-term familiar music in music therapy sessions can help to orient patients in their memories and offers them an opportunity to reconnect with their emotional past.

Maintaining Motor Skills and Independence

As brain function declines, mobility can also be affected. Slowness of movement, stiffness and falls are all issues that affect people with dementia and the elderly. Brain research has shown that auditory information, such as music, travels through the motor region of the brain, and when a rhythmic pulse is heard, neurons are fired within the motor system. This means that music can help provide cues for movements.
Music and Movement groups run by music therapists can help target functional movements that reflect activities of daily living, such as walking, standing up and sitting down, and reaching for items.  Through musical entrainment, movements can become much more secure and confident, helping a patient to lead as independent a life as possible.

Combatting Loneliness and Isolation

Making music is a fun activity, and music therapy sessions can help to reduce isolation by promoting active engagement, communication, creativity and expressivity. It helps to connect patients with others around them, and for families, music offers the opportunity to share experiences and maintain a relationship with their loved one.

Music Therapy in Care Homes

We offer group and individual music therapy sessions in care homes across East and West Sussex. We also offer staff training to help carers and key workers support patients in music therapy sessions, and to demonstrate how they can incorporate music into everyday life within the care home, from impromptu sing along sessions to personal care routines.

Implementing some of the musical activities throughout the week will have a number of positive effects, including increased rapport between staff and patients, and enhanced multidisciplinary care planning and delivery. Making music an integral part of the daily culture of care in the home also ensures that patients’ symptoms are managed in both therapy and day-to-day care

I have a relative with Dementia, what next?

We provide individual music therapy sessions for people with dementia in their homes, and family members, carers or loved ones are invited to join. We focus on joint music-making and listening, and believe that this collaborative process helps to support communication, relationships and quality of life.

Tips for using Music

  • Choose music that the person enjoys, in particular, pieces that will reconnect them with their emotional past. For example, a hymn from their wedding, a song they sung to their children, or something they would dance to as a young adult. Familiar music helps tap into powerful emotions and memories.
  • Watch how the person reacts. Music can stir many positive emotions and memories in us, but it may also awaken negative emotions. Always look for any signs of distress or upset.
  • Look for signs of movement and engagement – do they tap their fingers or hum along? Do they mouth the words? If so, mirror their actions and movements to create an intensive interaction and encourage engagement.
  • Clapping along to the beat of the music creates a grounding rhythmic structure that may support settlement for those who may be prone to wandering.
  • Sing along! Singing in a group has many physical benefits. Firstly, it releases endorphins, which are associated with feelings of pleasure, and oxytocin, a hormone that lowers stress and creates bonding. Singing is also one of the most effective ways to increase blood flow and oxygen in the bloodstream, just like a good workout! This helps to increase lung capacity, reduce heart disease and boost immunity.