Hitting the right note may be as easy as Do-Re-Mi, but when it comes to mental health the human psyche is an instrument that needs tuning.
Music can hold significance in our lives like no other medium. A song can evoke strong memories from our youths, the first dance at a wedding maybe or even just an old favourite. Regardless of the when and where, some melodies strike a chord with us.
Music’s strong connection to emotion can be used to benefit those living with dementia, bringing rare moments of clarity and calm. For many people, dementia can cause confusion and agitation as their memory deteriorates. However, research has found that music can reduce anxiety by distracting attention away from stressful situations.
It has been found that listening to music stimulates numerous parts of the brain all at once, so even when some areas of the brain are damaged and communication is restricted, the music can produce a strong emotional response. The music can bring tears of joy – we must remember that tears are not always bad but a sign of deep emotion, especially for someone with a limited verbal response.
Psychologists have found that we create more memories between the ages of 10 and 30 than any other time in our lives. So, playing peoples favourite songs from these years is beneficial and ensure high levels of engagement.
When communication is a struggle, putting people on the spot and asking for their favourite song may draw silence. Therefore, suggesting certain singers from their generation may spark conversations and take them on a nostalgic journey.
Dementia can lead to many confusing and challenging times, during which music can be used to maintain calmness and reduce anxiety, especially when playing songs with a slower tempo and lilting feel. Songs may include ‘Moon River’, ‘Home on the Range’, ‘Skye Boat Song’ and ‘What a Wonderful World’. However, more upbeat music can promote stimulation that may be suitable at different times of the day.
Not only does music therapy reduce stress, but it also inspires reminiscence, communication, social activity, movement and improves cognitive skills. This is essential for those living with dementia as it can instil a sense of identity and positive memories.
Photographs can also be used alongside music to prompt memory recall, helping those who have become withdrawn to come together to share their memories, experiences and friendships.
There are a multitude of benefits associated with music therapy; a recent study has found that playing music to dementia patients in A&E has a calming effect. Through providing people with an MP3 player, with music spanning a range of genres reduces levels of stress, agitation was reduced based on 9 key behaviours. ‘This is an example of a person-centred approach to delivering holistic, therapeutic and effective care’ (BBC, 2019).
At the Athena Healthcare Group, we believe in the use of alternative therapies as supplementary support to the superior care we deliver to our residents. There is a wide range of both mental and physical benefits for everyone who participates in music therapy and therefore, we aim to give this opportunity to each resident, along with our Musical Therapist Aisling Palmer.
If you would like to learn more about the music therapy we provide, watch the video linked below: