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How Can Music Help Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease

Music In Middle Stage Alzheimers

How music can help Alzheimer’s patients

Some people in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s can continue to play the piano well, and benefit from it. Others may become frustrated when they forget the chord or can’t read the music.

In the middle stages, when behaviors can sometimes be challenging, music is an often-effective way to distract someone. A nurse aide that we know, for example, almost always sings a song with the person she’s helping while they walk together. The person walks farther because he’s singing along, and has a more enjoyable time getting his daily exercises accomplished.

Music may also be beneficial to mood and sleep patterns for people with Alzheimer’s. A study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine was conducted with 20 male residents who had a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s at a nursing home.

These men participated in music therapy five times a week for four weeks. Following the four weeks, their melatonin levels were tested and had significantly increasedand remained elevated even six weeks after the conclusion of the music therapy programming.

Therapists also noted that the men demonstrated an improved ability to learn the songs and lyrics, increased social interaction, and a more relaxed and calm mood.

Select Songs Of Their Time

It can be helpful to choose music that they enjoyed listening to during positive times in their life. These can be childhood favorites or hit songs that may evoke positive memories.

You also want to take into account the patients history with music. This includes whether they ever played an instrument or if they had a favorite singer or musical that they enjoy.

Music In Late Stage Alzheimers

In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, music is often used as a way to connect with a loved one and evoke a response. People may enjoy listening to the recordings you made in the earlier stages of dementia of their favorite songs.

Familiar music may be able to calm someone who’s restless or uncomfortable in the end stages of life. Some people with severe Alzheimer’s will mouth the words of a familiar song upon hearing it, and visibly relax and rest in the midst of music.

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Music Activates Regions Of The Brain Spared By Alzheimer’s Disease

University of Utah Health
Researchers are looking to the salience network of the brain to develop music-based treatments to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia.

Ever get chills listening to a particularly moving piece of music? You can thank the salience network of the brain for that emotional joint. Surprisingly, this region also remains an island of remembrance that is spared from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the University of Utah Health are looking to this region of the brain to develop music-based treatments to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. Their research will appear in the April online issue of The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety” said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributing author on the study. “We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.”

For three weeks, the researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a portable media player loaded with the self-selected collection of music.

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Pick The Right Music Style

Can music therapy really help dementia patients?

Background music is the perfect way to set an atmosphere, so use it wisely. For example, try an upbeat playlist in the morning to increase energy for the day. In the late afternoon, try a more relaxing playlist that will encourage feelings of peace and comfort to help with any anxiety, wandering, or insomnia.

Its also important to pay attention to potential overstimulation. Playing music loudly while you are trying to have a conversation or while you are banging pots and pans when making breakfast might not be the best idea.

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How Music ‘awakens’ Alzheimer’s Patients

18 April 2012

In a now-famous YouTube video, Henry, an elderly man with dementia, is transformed by the power of music. Initially slumped in a chair and unable to recognize his own daughter, Henry seems to be miraculously brought out of his stupor by a few minutes of music from his youth: He gushes about his favorite jazz singer, sings a few verses in a rich baritone and waxes poetic about how music makes him feel.

The poignant footage demonstrates a well-known but under-studied effect: Experts say music really can “awaken” Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Neurologists at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center are leading the field in uncovering why music seems to affect memory and, more important, how music therapy can be used to improve the lives of those whose memories are fading.

Andrew Budson, associate director for research at the center, said there are currently two theories to explain the transformative effect of music on Henry and other dementia sufferers. First, music has emotional content, and so hearing it can trigger emotional memories “some of the more powerful memories that we have,” Budson told Life’s Little Mysteries. These types of memories have the best chance of rising to the top in Alzheimer’s patients.

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Follow Life’s Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries and join us on .

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.

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Music In Early Stage Alzheimers

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, many people enjoy playing music or singing. Encourage them to continue to be involved in music it may be an area in which they can feel success and accomplishment, and be encouraged by its beauty.

You can also make compilation recordings of their favorite songs, which are often songs or music that date back to their younger and middle years. Some older adults may have strong spiritual beliefs and will appreciate songs of faith.

Clinical Trials For Complementary Therapies In Pd

How Personalized Music Playlists Help Alzheimer’s Patients

Just like they do for medications, clinical trials are also done for complementary therapies. Trials that test complementary therapies in PD can be conducted in a variety of ways, some more rigorous than others. Typically, patients are assessed for different outcome measures depending on the treatment. For example, a study of massage investigated the change in pain level as an outcome measure, whereas studies of acupuncture looked at changes in sleep and depression as outcome measures. The different types of treatments have not been compared to each other, so there is little way of knowing if one edges out the others in terms of effectiveness on any given measure.

In general, however, these modalities are low-risk and typically demonstrate improvement in either a motor or a non-motor symptom. Additional research with larger and more rigorous trials is needed, but it is exciting to realize that there are many possible therapeutic avenues to explore. It is also important to note that complementary therapies are typically not covered by insurance, so they may be out of financial reach for many people with PD. Increased research demonstrating the efficacy of these modalities is the first step in convincing insurance providers that these services are worth covering.

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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 condition of each client and then develops goals, objectives and a 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.

Does New Music Impact The Brain In The Same Way

Researchers examined 14 participants who listened to a playlist of their favorite and personally relevant songs. These individuals listened to the music for one hour a day for three weeks. The group also underwent fMRI scans before and after the experiment to measure changes in brain function and brain structure.

During the scans, they also listened to both their favorite musical choices and new music with no personal connection to them.

When listening to new music, study authors found that the patients brains had more activity in the auditory cortex, the center of the listening experience. This was much different than when the group listened to their own music, which activated the deep-encoded network of the prefrontal cortex. Researchers say this is a clear sign of higher brain functioning at work.

The dementia patients also experienced more activity in the subcortical brain regions, older areas of the brain which Alzheimers disease does not impact as severely.

Whether youre a lifelong musician or have never even played an instrument, music is an access key to your memory, your pre-frontal cortex, Thaut concludes. Its simple keep listening to the music that youve loved all your life. Your all-time favorite songs, those pieces that are especially meaningful to you make that your brain gym.

The study appears in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease.

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Inclusion And Exclusion Criteria

For this review, we included studies published in the last 10 years , and available in English with pre- and post-intervention data collection in cognitive and/or behavioral domains. The intervention must meet the definition as either music therapy, music listening or generalized music-based interventions , and can be individualized or non-individualized . Generalized music approaches without a music therapist must be validated by a caregiver or conducted in a controlled setting to ensure adherence to protocol. The studies gathered in our review included only patients with AD dementia. Studies that were excluded included reviews, letters to the editors, studies which did not involve a music intervention or included an intervention other than music approaches, studies using a mixed intervention strategy, or studies that included a diagnosis of dementia other than AD, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, or mixed dementia.

What Does A Therapy Session Look Like

Can Music Help Dementia Patients?

A music therapy program can be performed in an individual or group setting. It implements 20 standardized clinical techniques that fall under three categories: cognition, sensorimotor, and language and speech.

Ultimately, the objective of many therapies used for dementia is to return to the participant an awareness of their time, place, and identity. Emotions contained in music can help patients regain a sense of self and where they fit in the world.

The first priority is to jump-start the brain and bring everything into focus. Rousing, fast-paced music can increase cognition by stimulating alertness and activating responsiveness.

Once the brain has woken up, the next focus is activating the parts of the brain responsible for sensorimotor tasks. This part is all about the rhythm and beat, encouraging body movement with feet tapping out a marching tune or shuffling to a samba.

Other techniques such as singing or Vocal Intonation Therapy to be scientific use language and speech to foster orientation. Singing the date and day of the week, along with a participants name, opens a back door to parts of the brain otherwise inaccessible due to how dementia damages pathways in the brain.

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How Can Music Ease Dementia Patients

Based on medical studies, here are some suggestions for how medical professionals, caregivers, and loved ones can help dementia patients using music.

Applying soothing music, using genres that were popular throughout the individuals lifetime, and using background music during activities or visiting hours can boost overall quality of life for patients with Alzheimers as their condition progresses.

Choose Songs That Mean Something To Them

Music choice is crucial when it comes to giving seniors a positive interaction. Keep in mind that current music will likely not have any memory tied to it, so avoid songs you might hear on a Top 10 radio station. Instead, focus on finding music that would have been a part of their life in childhood or early adulthood. If you arent sure what songs mean the most to them, try finding a playlist online with songs from years when they would have been a young adult. Then, watch their reactions to specific songs until you curate a playlist just for them.

You might find luck choosing songs that match up with their personal history as well. For example, hymns might be perfect for someone who grew up in the church, while the fight song of their college might be a fun addition for someone who played sports at their alma mater.

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Is There A Therapeutic Connection Between Music And Dementia

Some of the leading research suggests there is a strong positive connection between dementia and music. For instance, an article published by Harvard Health clearly shows a correlation of how music can boost memory and mood. According to the article, music has a way of reactivating parts of the brain associated with emotions, memory, reward, reasoning, and speech and can open the memory vault of your loved one impacted by dementia.

A Father’s Pain Eased

UCLA’s Tunes for Alzheimer’s Patients

I have seen the healing power of music up close. When I quit my job as a radio news anchor in New York to come home to help my mother care for my father, who had Alzheimer’s, we used music in every aspect of caregiving. I sang or played Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” to wake him up. Instead of being lost and confused in the mornings, as often happens for people with Alzheimer’s, the song made him realize where he was and who my mother and I were.

My father loved jazz and had been an accomplished singer. Jazz classics like George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” were great for showering, brushing teeth and getting dressed. I used the songs to distract him during these tasks. In the afternoons, when what’s called “sundowning” sometimes occurs and Alzheimer’s patients get anxious or angry, Diana Krall’s version of “I Get Along Without You Very Well” would calm him down. As his disease progressed, when he would become almost catatonic, all I had to do was start singing the words to the fight song of his alma mater, the University of Michigan and his eyes would engage and he would sing along.

When my father died in 2010 at age 83, our sadness was relieved a bit by the sense that his last years of life were less isolated and dark than they might have been otherwise.

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Using Music Therapy To Help Alzheimers Patients

Playing music for an Alzheimers patient can be therapeutic on both a mental and physical level. Start by incorporating it into their day to day activities. You can play music during exercise, bathing, leisure activities, and mealtimes.

Here are a few tips to consider when using music therapy to better a patients wellbeing.

Memory Care In A Supportive Environment

If your loved one is experiencing early- to mid-stage dementia or Alzheimers disease and youre looking for a supportive environment where the arts are used to help residents make the most of the cognitive abilities they have, Hebrew SeniorLife can help. Our memory assisted living community at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, MA provides personalized care based on each residents history, talents, preferences, and goals. Call us today at 781-859-3091 or contact us online to learn more or to schedule a tour.

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It Does Not Cure The Disease But Can Improve The Life Quality Of Those Affected Expert Says

By: Suelane Carneiro, South American Division, and Adventist Review

For several decades now, the Music School at Bahia Adventist College in northern Brazil has been offering music education for students. In the past couple of years, however, leaders have devised ways of expanding the schools influence in its surrounding community as well. Activities are focused on inclusion to reinforce the therapeutic, social, and spiritual role that music can fulfill.

One of the projects is geared toward helping Nazaré Portella, a 79-nine-year-old woman who lives close to the school campus and is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The Music School initiative was launched more than a year ago by music professor Juliana Pinheiro Sanches. Its goal is to use music as an aid in the treatment of neurological diseases. The ultimate goal is to share the initiative with many other people.

She is unbelievable, Pinheiro Sanches said. When I first met her, I found out that she loved singing and was a music lover. I suggested that the family start music therapy as a way of delaying the effects of the disease and contributing to a better quality of life.

Portella was diagnosed in 2017, and since then her family has been looking for ways to help her. As a young woman, she often sang in church and a choir. Recently, she took part in a video recorded to honor grandparents on their special day.

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