How Music Therapy in Memory Support Boosts The Brain

Music Therapy

It could be a show tune. A comforting spiritual melody. Or perhaps a college fight song. Music can evoke a powerful emotional experience in us, whether we’re listening to a golden oldie, learning how to play an instrument, or joining in a sing-along. An incredible tool in memory support, music can help loved ones feel emotions all over again, “waking up” the brain and inspiring physical movement and smiles like nothing else.

At Senior Star, we recognize that music therapy has multiple benefits for those dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, especially a person who is unable to communicate in another way. And we are excited to offer music therapy in our memory support program. 

Music therapy in memory support: Why is it so powerful?

Builds cognitive skills.

Music affects many different sections of the brain, touching areas that may not be damaged by dementia and bringing those pathways to the front, resulting in a kind of “awakening.” This is because musical perception, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory and cognitive function have disappeared. According to Practical Neurology, music is just one activity that is very resistant to decline. Others include pedaling an indoor bicycle, dancing, and throwing a baseball. 

Helps memory recall.

Something as simple as singing a show tune from a musical can help an Alzheimer’s patient recall memories and emotions. Music therapy in memory support can be individualized by putting together a personalized playlist that appeals to a loved one’s history. Family members may provide songs that relate to special times or events of a loved one’s life. And when singing and music are paired with daily activities, it helps an individual recall a memory of that activity, which can improve cognitive ability over time.

Engages more of the brain.  

In simple terms, singing activates the left side of the brain and listening to music wakes up the right side, while watching others play music can also turn on the part of the brain that records visual movement. The result is more of the brain being stimulated. These benefits of music therapy in memory care can be seen in all stages of dementia.

Builds connections with others.

Another important benefit of music therapy in memory support is how it can encourage personal expression and bonding with others. Singing a favorite song in a group can be fun and engaging and help a person share emotions, something that becomes more difficult in the later stages of dementia. A drum circle is not only a fun way to interact with others, it also can improve motor function, and serve as a form of exercise. 

Improves behavior and mood.

Listening to music, singing, and playing an instrument all result in increased secretion of more “feel-good” brain chemicals in seniors with dementia. Studies have shown that music therapy can reduce mood symptoms such as depression and anxiety for a period of weeks. Soothing songs such as lullabies can also help a dementia patient prepare for bed or help them handle a new task without agitation.

Promotes smiles and steps. 

Music therapy can elicit a smile and the desire to move about. Music and dancing promote coordination and can help with walking and endurance. Even if your loved one is not mobile, music can inspire toe-tapping and clapping, thus getting the blood flowing once again. This can open up the possibility of physical contact such as a hug or touch that adds to a feeling of calm and security. In addition, residents are more apt to participate in and enjoy exercise sessions where music is present. 

Music therapy in Memory Support is just one of the ways your loved one is known and valued at Senior Star. Learn more about Senior Star’s Music & Memory partnership and how it is an essential part of our 7 Areas of Wellness program that each of our communities is certified in by scheduling a virtual or in-person tour. Questions about Senior Star and our senior living communities?  Contact us. Download our free Guide:  Family Decision Toolkit.

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