The area of the brain stimulated by music is linked to the region that stores long-term memory. Research indicates that the parts of the brain associated with long-term memory and music are the last to succumb to the disease process, and it may not endure damage at all. As such, music can be a useful therapeutic tool in the following ways.
1. Elicits Emotions
Seniors with Alzheimer’s often have emotional reactions when listening to songs they once enjoyed. The brain associates familiar tunes with activities and emotions experienced when the songs were previously heard. Thus, hearing the songs years later brings back the memories and emotions felt at the time. Play familiar tunes for your elderly loved one while performing an activity to recall memories.
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2. Enables Connections
Because the ability to appreciate music remains, playing music for a senior with Alzheimer’s is a good way to make a connection. When hearing a familiar tune, seniors may tap their feet, pat their legs, or sway to the rhythm. They might even be willing to offer hugs and kisses. Physical touch provides a sense of security and comfort.
3. Stimulates Cognitive Function
Singing awakens the left side of the brain, while hearing music stimulates the right side of the brain. When both sides of the brain are stimulated simultaneously, neurons are triggered to create more pathways, which enhances cognitive ability. The more frequently seniors hear favourite music and sing along to songs, the greater the chance of boosting neural plasticity.
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4. Elevates Mood
Music is a powerful mood booster, especially for seniors with Alzheimer’s. It’s not unusual for cognitively impaired seniors to exhibit anger, frustration, and aggression, but hearing music can divert their attention from whatever might be causing them to be upset. They can then be guided to a different location or start a new activity. Hearing favourite tunes also elevates mood when feeling sad or depressed.
5. Encourages Physical Movement
When listening to music, seniors with Alzheimer’s may be more amenable to engaging in physical activities. They might like to dance or go for a walk, and they may also be more willing to comply with carers in completing personal care tasks.
6. Promotes Better Sleep
Research shows that seniors with Alzheimer’s who hear beloved music as often as possible have elevated levels of the hormone melatonin, which alerts the body when bedtime is near. Ageing adults with Alzheimer’s often experience disrupted sleep patterns, including the inability to sleep peacefully through the night, which commonly leads to wandering. However, when melatonin levels rise, seniors may fall asleep more quickly and remain asleep for longer. When able to enjoy a good night’s rest, seniors are more relaxed and willing to interact with others, and they enjoy better cognitive function.
Compassionate care is available for ageing adults living with Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family carers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. If you need professional aged care for your loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (02) 4089 3000.