Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s


Some of the most meaningful results can come from the most unlikely sources. Over the past decade music therapy has steadily grown in popularity as a method of accomplishing therapeutic goals for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Music is timeless, and its transformative power has been shown to stimulate interactions and facilitate cognitive functions. Music therapy is used to relieve stress, manage pain, improve communication, and to create unique memories and moments of interaction between family members. Music is connected to the motor skills of the brain, and it is extremely powerful in creating and sustaining emotions and moods without being threatening.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, this specific treatment is shown to improve the wellbeing and responsiveness of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The sensory stimulation of listening to your favorite music creates a warm familiarity and a feeling of deep security.

Music is associated and linked in the brain with milestone events and emotions in their life, like their wedding or some important celebration. Selecting and playing music from a loved one’s earlier years will help generate strong emotional responses and opportunities for engagement, even for seniors with late stage Alzheimer’s.

If you’re considering music therapy, there are ways to ease into it in the comfort of your home. If you and your loved one can’t go to a dance hall to hear music from their younger years, compile a list of their favorite records and hits throughout the years and make a mix. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s you can experiment with various forms and genres of music and see what songs spark vivid memories.

In the middle stages of Alzheimer’s try playing music or singing with your loved one while they’re walking to see if it improves their balance and stride. You can utilize background music to lighten the mood and help them settle down at night with relaxing, non-rhythmic music that helps ease the mind and reduce stress.

For loved ones with late stage Alzheimer’s there are plenty of possibilities with music therapy. You can engage in sing-alongs to old classics, like “When the Saints Go Marching In” or any of their favorite tunes. Try exercising to music, and playing soothing instrumental music to instill a sense of comfort into daily activities.

All of these ideas will help you find out if music therapy is a method you’d like to pursue. If so, there’s no alternative to hiring an actual music therapist. Many music therapists work at rehabilitation hospitals, adult intermediate care facilities, hospices, and senior centers.

Music therapy has the ability to change the way you interact with your loved one with Alzheimer’s. The American Music Therapy Association states: “When individualized music experiences are designed by a professionally trained music therapist to fit functional abilities and needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Participants without a music background can benefit from music therapy.”

Several articles in scholarly peer-reviewed journals attest to the effectiveness of music therapy. Research demonstrates that music therapy can reduce depression in older adults, enhance emotional and social skills, and assist in language and recall skills. These are just a few of our favorite videos that show seniors doing exactly that.

Watch the power of music come alive in some of our favorite videos.