Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are two of the most critical health care concerns for baby boomers. The National Institute of Health reports that between 2.6 million and 5.1 million Americans aged 65 years and older may suffer from the Alzheimer’s alone, with annual costs estimated to exceed $100 billion. With age as the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s, health officials estimate that due to the aging of the population, its prevalence could triple by 2050.

Music Therapy for Memory Care

One treatment plan that is finding great success with no risk of side effects is music therapy, a popular program for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Music therapy can include listening to music in a variety of forms. Whether it’s on an iPod or digital device, providing background music in a patient’s room or even employing the use of specialized musicians to play music and sing for patients. “Listening to music appears to be more effective in reducing agitation, behavioral symptoms and anxiety for older adults with dementia than does singing or playing along with music,” says Meredith Beirne, with

A Non-Profit Leading the Way

Music & Memory Program is a non-profit that brings personalized music to senior citizens through iPods. They’ve given personalized iPods to over 140 specialized care homes throughout the United States. Along with the iPods, they also educate family caregivers on how to create a personal playlist for patients that will help them reconnect with memories that music can trigger. When asked why these playlists seem to have such a profound effect on patients, Dr. Laura Mosqueda shares that “because music affects so many parts of the brain, it touches areas that may not be damaged by the disease and brings those pathways to the forefront…and an ‘awakening’ often occurs.”

Music Memory Might Not be Affected by Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Esther Heerema, MSW, shares, “One research project studied people with Alzheimer’s and found that their memory for music was not affected by the disease. They performed similarly to those without Alzheimer’s in recognizing songs and lyrics.” Listening to music can be a way for these patients to reconnect with memories from their younger lives. Music can also be a motivator to help patients accomplish simple tasks or to distract them when they’re experiencing distress.

Singing as Therapy

Singing as a form of music therapy also produces positive results in patients. Utilizing acoustic instruments or a karaoke device and allowing the patient to sing along, and continuing this practice on a regular basis helps Alzheimer’s patients feel calmer and improves their general sense of well-being.

The Power of Music for Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Concetta Tomaino, DA, a certified music therapist, and director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York, says “We process music with almost every part of our brain. Music that has personal significance to someone or is connected with historical events is a strong stimulus to engage responses in people, even in late stages of dementia. Even if they’re not necessarily able to tell you what the song is, they are able to be moved and feel the associations.”

Additional studies have shown that agitation and other challenging behaviors that present themselves during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s are reduced when a patient listens to music. Even in the later stages, some patients can remember songs from their childhood, giving them a way to connect when they may not be able to speak or communicate in other ways.

The Potential Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

Alzheimer’s News Today reported on a study recently published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that showed personalized music therapy actually decreased the need for antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications, as well as improve symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients.

Using music programs for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients is an innovative therapy that also offers patients happiness and joy. Such therapy opportunities and especially important considering there is little in the way for cures for these pervasive and degenerative diseases.

At Vineyard Henderson, we believe in innovative therapy opportunities to cater to your loved ones’ needs.