Community Blog

Music Stimulates Memories in Seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

By Debbie Humphrey

The human brain is fascinating. It serves as our internal computer server, functioning involuntarily, controlling every bodily system, from the growth of our pinky toenail, to the consistent beats of our heart. It retains and recants acquired knowledge in ways we cannot begin to understand.

I recently drove past a sign in front of a local school promoting “Music in Schools Month.” The message prompted memories of my days playing flute and piccolo in our high school concert, pep and marching bands, which, in turn, stimulated more thoughts and joyful memories from those days gone by.

Music touches each of us in different ways. As I recall those band camp days, I also remember the tunes I jammed to on the road back to college those Sunday afternoons following a weekend at home. I remember fast-dancing with my father to the “oldies” of the 50’s & 60’s, and him teaching me to properly slow dance with a boy before my first sock-hop. I remember the song the band was playing when I met my future husband and that which played for our first dance at our wedding.

With a flood of melodious memories, it occurred to me that music stimulates memories in seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, allowing them to reconnect with their reality.

While visiting the Alzheimer’s Reading Room online, I learned “there is good science behind the use of music to arouse dormant memories, even in those whose minds are failing.” 

In case studies, participants with memory disorders responded favorably to music they heard from their personal histories. In one case, a granddaughter selected a tune from the 1930’s, and played it on her iPod while visiting her Grandfather, stricken with Alzheimer’s. Immediately he was able to call his granddaughter by name, and tell her who performed the song, where he heard it and with whom he danced! This was quite a breakthrough, considering he did not communicate with her or recall her name at any other time when they visited. When she played certain music, though, it stimulated something in his mind, and he responded.

“While the parts of the brain where we make memories — the medial temporal lobes like the hippocampus — are the first parts to be ravaged as Alzheimer’s develops, music pulls from the cortical and sub-cortical areas, which aren’t as damaged by the disease.”

This is such promising research! While memory disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia rob their sufferers of precious memories, it is possible to use music as a catalyst to capture segments of their past and effectively bring them back, if only for a little while.

As we recognize music in schools month, let us also raise awareness about music and memory disorders. I encourage family caregivers, professional caregivers, and those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, to consider using music as a therapeutic approach to care.

Home Helpers® is available to provide non-medical assistance for you or your loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Our caregivers do light housework, run errands, shop for groceries, prepare meals, assist with transportation, offer medication reminders, and so much more. I am happy to offer a FREE consultation, and whatever resources at my disposal, to assist with your needs.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539

Source: Alzheimer’s Reading Room