What A Music Therapist Does
A music therapist is trained to use music as a tool to help participants meet their wellness goals, which include the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of those they serve. In order for them to develop a treatment plan, they will begin with an assessment to learn more about the participants medical history, personal history, preferences, and challenges. Then, they will develop a plan of care that details music interventions that will help the participant work toward those goals.
Music therapists use a variety of interventions with participants, including sing-a-long sessions, breathing exercises, drumming, and other movements set to music. They can even play music for the participant, which is something you see often with those living with dementia, especially in the later stages of the disease. For example, it is common for music therapists to be on the staff of hospice organizations, arriving to play the harp or other instrument for seniors who receive hospice care.
Making Music To Sharpen Aging Brains
While research continues on drugs that can slow or reverse the- damage of Alzheimers disease, there is already evidence for a lower-tech intervention: music. Research on the benefits of listening to music has found some evidence that it can activate regions of the brain not damaged by disease progression, soothe emotional disturbances, and promote some cognitive improvement in later stages of Alzheimers.
A new analysis in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society earlier this year looked at a different question. Can making music, whether by playing a musical instrument or singing, have an effect on the brains of people in the early stages of cognitive decline? The team focused specifically on people experiencing mild cognitive decline, which can be the first step in a progression toward Alzheimers disease or more serious dementia. The researchers found evidence from 21 studies, involving more than 1,400 participants around the world, that yes, playing musical instruments, singing, or otherwise participating in making music can have a small but consistent benefit in recall, and other measures of brain health.
The Cognitive Benefits Of Playing An Instrument
The guitar is particularly unique, as it seems that the brain of a guitar player BEHAVES differently than non-musicians brains. In a 2012 study in Berlin, researchers concluded that the neural networks of different guitar players appear to synchronize while theyre playing a piece of music and that synchronization actually occurs before they even begin playing.
Further, it seems that guitar players can toggle between conscious thought and unconscious thought during solos and other difficult passages. This suggests that learning the guitar allows players to tap into the creative side of their brain, allowing their ideas and virtuosity to flow through them uninhibited.
Playing an instrument has also shown to have an incredible effect on the plasticity of our brains. Pat Martino, the renowned jazz guitarist, had a severe brain hemorrhage in his 30s, prompting scientists to remove a significant portion of his left temporal lobe. While Pat recovered from surgery, unfortunately, his playing ability did not. He completed lost the ability to play.
Within two years, Pat was able to relearn his instrument completely, and he approached it with the same virtuosity he had before his injury. This incredible development suggests a significant link between brain plasticity and playing an instrument.
You May Like: Alzheimer Vs Dementia Vs Senility
Learn More About Being Proactive About Your Brain Health
At the Well for Health, we want to see you reach optimum health and take joy from your life every day. Working to support your wellness is what we do, and what we love to do.
Learn more about making your brain more resilient as you age and lowering your likelihood of developing Alzheimers disease by scheduling a consultation with us. Simply give our office a call or book an appointment online. We look forward to seeing yo
You Might Also Enjoy…
Music And Dementia: Key Considerations
Recent randomized controlled studies have shown the efficacy of music intervention in improving the well-being of individuals with dementia and their caregivers.
Music abilities are not completely spared in dementia.
Different dementias likely respond differently to music intervention , and more studies are needed in other dementias, including vascular, Parkinsons disease dementia, and Lewy Body dementia.
Musical training appears to delay cognitive decline and promote brain plasticity in the elderly brain, but more studies with pathology are needed.
The development and use of the MiDAS assessment scale has provided insight into who is likely to show improved quality of life or reduction in psychiatric symptoms in response to music therapy.
Musical composing in the presence of cognitive impairment has been studied in the famous French composer Maurice Ravel, who is especially known for his musical piece Bolero, amongst others. In October 1932, Ravel was involved in a car accident and suffered facial and chest injuries. He also developed progressive cognitive decline,21 having difficulty writing and even signing his name. In addition to trouble writing music, he could no longer conduct an orchestra . Partially intact were his perceptual auditory abilities, and he was able to recognize his own composed works. He could also recognize slight mistakes when someone was playing his music.
Recommended Reading: Alzheimer’s Jigsaw Puzzles
Involving Seniors In Music Therapy
Professional music therapists are trained to address the physical, psychological, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. The music therapist assesses the needs and conditions of each client and then develops goals, objectives, and therapeutic treatment. These treatments may include singing, playing, moving to, creating, or listening to music. The therapist works towards improving the client’s social, communicative, emotional, physical, and intellectual health and well-being.
But you don’t have to be a music therapist to help seniors with Alzheimer’s enjoy the music. Caregivers offer music experiences such as concerts or other musical entertainment. Caregivers may also create playlists for seniors. These playlists can be tailored to various situations, such as motivation, or relaxation. They may also be used in care routines, such as feeding or dressing an individual. Or they may simply serve to awaken dormant memories.
The Music & Memory Program, a non-profit organization, works to bring personalized music to seniors. They offer training to caregivers to help them renew the people in their care through music.
Playing For Time: Can Music Stave Off Dementia
Researchers are looking at music playing as a possible prevention of dementia
More study is needed to assess the benefits of music playing in the aging population
Listening to music can calm dementia patients or stimulate them, experts say
At 101, Frank Iacono still plays the violin. The concertmaster for the Providence Civic Orchestra of Senior Citizens in Rhode Island, he particularly enjoys playing polkas and jigs.
It keeps my mind active, and it gives me a lot of pleasure, Iacono said.
The orchestras executive director and co-founder, Vito Saritelli, said Iacono is extremely sharp for his age.
Music has played a good part of his longevity, said his wife, Mary Iacono, 94. Were blessed that were both in good health.
As scientists race to figure out how to promote healthy aging of the brain, and prevent dementia, their preliminary advice for senior citizens has become a chorus of voices: Stay active! Have hobbies! Be socially engaged!
Playing music, for some people, is a natural answer to all of those recommendations.Frank Iacono, for instance, has been playing violin since he was 13 just because he loves it.
But does music playing in particular stave off dementia? What about just listening to music? How many years do you need to engage in music before it benefits your brain?
All of these kind of add up in suggesting that a more engaged lifestyle is a good thing for the aging brain, Gatz said.
The brains backup
Don’t Miss: Alzheimer’s Awareness Ribbon
Pay Attention To Verbal And Nonverbal Cues
Keep an eye and ear out for how the person responds to music as you play it. Youll be able to tell if they like it, if they dont, and if they want to engage with it almost immediately. A smile, clapping, or even humming along can mean they like the song and are engaged. Looking away can mean they arent a fan, or they are not ready to engage with music at the moment.
How Playing Music Benefits The Brain
Your brain likes being challenged, and mastering a musical instrument requires your brain to engage a wide range of cognitive processes, including the sensory and motor systems.
Studies show that learning an instrument actually increases blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain, where language is processed.
Dr. Bernard Bendok, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, says, We know that the more languages you know, the less your risk of dementia. And music happens to be a language.
Research also shows that adults who have had musical training as children respond more quickly to speech as they age than those who never played an instrument.
But what if you never had piano lessons as a child? Is it too late to reap the brain benefits of learning and playing an instrument?
A few years ago, a research group in Spain set out to answer just that question.
You May Like: Life Expectancy Dementia Age 80
Other Benefits Of Playing Music
The moral of the story is, if youre over 65 and have thought about learning a musical instrument for the first time, go for it!
Not only will it strengthen your brain, but it will enhance your life and health in other important ways.
Playing an instrument reduces anxiety and depression. Playing music can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Playing music helps the brain recover from injury. After just three weeks of training on a drum set or piano, patients recovering from stroke showed significant improvement in motor control during everyday activities.
Playing music can increase our connection to others. Its been proven that playing in a group and being required to coordinate your movements with those of other people is linked to the release of endorphins, which also help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Editors note: While youre doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you dont make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient!
Learn More About Music Therapy For Alzheimer’s Patients
Music is a wonderful, research-backed tool that can enhance the quality of life for those living with dementia. It can improve emotional and physical health while offering a new way for the person to interact with the world around them.
Learn more about music and its use in the senior population by watching our webinar, The Power of Music Therapy. Host Melissa Lee connects with licensed and nationally board-certified music therapists Allison Lockhart and Hannah Rhinehart from The George Center Foundation to examine what we know about the connection between music and memory.
You May Like: When Does Late Onset Alzheimer’s Start
Learning A Musical Instrument Improves Hearing
One of the areas of the brain that music builds is the auditory cortex. Research shows that people who continue to take music lessons dont experience the typical aging in the auditory cortex of their brains which often leads to hearing issues. Music keeps your ears young! .
Many Alzheimers patients suffer from hearing lossso music can help.
Its never too late to start learning to play the piano. And if you played as a child or teen, brush off that instrument and start taking music lessons. Dont forget to practice with your grandkids!
Playing An Instrument Staves Off Mental Degeneration
Playing an instrument can also keep your brain sharp, helping to stave off degenerative diseases that are common in older people, including Alzheimers and dementia. In fact, seniors who engage in the kind of engaging mental activities like playing an instrument can reduce their risk of developing these conditions by up to 75%.
Other activities such as brain games like crossword puzzles or chess also help slow or prevent Alzheimers, as does dancing. But, as a musician, Id argue none of these activities are quite as fun or enriching as playing an instrument.
Don’t Miss: Multi Infarct Dementia Treatment
Get A Full Nights Rest
Preventing the formation of amyloid plaques is an important step in the prevention of Alzheimers disease. A new study has found that proper sleep may help keep your brain healthy. They found that proper levels of melatonin throughout your life can help prevent the plaque from forming.
Melatonin cannot clear the plaque, so long term prevention is necessary. Regulate your melatonin by getting good sleep. Try to get to bed at the same time every night. Remove all light sources from your room when sleeping. Make sure you sleep at least 7-hours each night. .
Learn Something New Every Day
Get out of your regular routine try something new. It can challenge your mind and stimulate brain stem growth.
Its never too soon to start. Researchers note that a lifetime of engaging in these cognitively stimulating activities can enhance brain health and help defer the risk of Alzheimers. If you remain curious about life and continue to learn new things, your brain will remain active and challenged. As the old adage goes: if you dont use it, you lose it.
Read Also: Smelling Farts Dementia
How Music Awakens Those With Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Recent data indicate that approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer’s. This includes an estimated 5.5 million people over the age of 65. For an individual with Alzheimer’s, the language and memory centers are particularly damaged by the disease. However, the area of the brain which is responsible for attention stays relatively functional. This is the same part of the brain that registers music in a healthy person. Researchers and scientists are studying why music affects memory and how music can be used to help those with Alzheimer’s.
Brain Games For Seniors
Despite the usual notion that games only suit teenagers and younger people, games are for everyone and are among hobbies for seniors. We can figure this out from the benefits of games for older adults. The game industry is a diverse one. Any social group can find appropriate games, and seniors are no exception. Seniors can use board games to improve their mental health. There are various card games for seniors that positively affect brain activities. And the options are not only limited to physical games.
There are computer games, online and offline, that undoubtedly help seniors keep their minds active and will continue to do so in the future. And day by day, with every step that technology takes forward, more games and applications are made available to improve seniors mental health.
Don’t Miss: Karen Vieth Edgar
Music And Dementia: Looking At The Data
Musical perception, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory and cognitive function have disappeared. In non-demented Parkinsons disease, music therapy can lead to fluent motor flow, such as dancing. But once the music stops, so does the improvement in motor function. In dementia it can improve mood, behavior, and in some cases cognitive function, which can persist for hours and days after the music stops. Music also does not need to be familiar to exert these improvements and one does not need to have any formal knowledge of music or be musically inclined to enjoy music and respond to it at the deepest level.
Mood And Quality Of Life
We found that BDI scores drop from the pre-program to the post-program assessment in both piano and control groups . A significant main effect for Condition was found in the BDI, F, p = 0.012, 2p = 0.21, as can be seen in Figure .
Beck Depression Inventory scores Fatigue sub-scale raw score of the POMS Profile of Mood States total raw score WHOQOL-BREF raw scores in the physical health and psychological health domains.
In the POMS there was a significant Group × Condition interaction in the Fatigue factor and in the total POMS score . Figures , indicate that the fatigue scores and the total score in the POMS , related to psychological distress, decreased from the pre-program to the post-program assessment in the piano group. However, the control group shows exactly the opposite pattern, since the scores in the total score and fatigue seemed to increase over time.
In the WHOQOL-BREF we found a significant Group × Condition interaction in the Physical Health and in the Psychological Health domains [F, p = 0.045, 2p = 0.151). As shown in Figure , while the physical and psychological health scores increased in the post-program in comparison to the pre-program assessment in the piano group, the scores of the control group show a tendency to decrease or maintain the same in physical and psychological domains . Moreover, no significant effects were found in Social and Environmental Health factors. Table summarizes means and SE in the mood and QOL questionnaires.
Don’t Miss: Ribbon Color For Dementia