Musical favorites tap deep emotional recall. That favorite song brings joy, eases pain, reduces stress, and can facilitate social connection. For family members, sharing a loved one’s music can enhance visits and deepen relationships that may have seemed lost, especially to dementia. For staff, personalized music provides an entryway to more meaningful relationships with those in their care — as well as a way to ease transitions, avoid challenging behaviors, and save time.
Each year, we learn more and more about the therapeutic uses of personalized music. Here are some examples:
Nutritional and Hydration Issues
- Because music activates cognition and speech, it helps recipients recognize food, follow cues, chew and swallow.
- Calming music can relieve anxiety generated by the eating experience.
Agitation and Anxiety
- Music focuses a person’s attention on something recognizable, which reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed and confused.
- It connects the person with positive memories, which has a soothing effect.
- Music stimulates movement, a positive outlet for restlessness.
NOTE: the improved cognition and mood continue after the person stops listening to music.
- Music brings pleasure, releasing opioids in the brain.
- Happy memories distract from the pain.
- Recipients move to the music. This relieves pain from stiffness and tightened muscles.
NOTE: Pain is a common reason for rejection of care and having music relieve or distract from pain can help participants be receptive to care.
Rejection of Care
- Helps people relax, experience pleasure, connect to positive memories, improve their cognition and communication.
- Music improves the duration and intensity of concentration.
- People are better able to follow cues, understand what is happening, relate to their care-giver, and feel safe.
- Music helps relax tense muscles
- It tunes one’s mind to positive memories and emotions providing soothing comfort
- Decreases production of cortisol
- Reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, decreases anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate
Mood and Depression
- Neurologist Oliver Sacks said that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”
- Music is pleasurable
- It brings warm memories and connections, and self-efficacy.
- It generates movement, engagement, cognition, and awareness.
Occupational, Speech and Physical Therapy
- Music before a therapy session activates cognition, communication, and auditory and visual perception, making it easier to follow cues and engage in therapy activities.
- Singing uses consonants and vowels, activating speech.
- Musical rhythm generates body movement, reduces muscle tension and improves coordination.
- Hearing remains during active dying.
- Music connects people to their identity, emotions, auditory and visual perception.
- Music is a help to families as well.
There’s no better way to understand the power of personalized music than to hear about it firsthand. Read about Jo’s experience.
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