From the time a person is born, maybe even before, music is a part of life. Babies have lullabies sung to them. Classical music is thought to encourage brain activity and cognitive development. As a young person ages, music is associated with different events in their life. Music is a form of expression, not just vocally, but physically through dance. Songs can transport a person back to a time in their life, like a wedding or baby’s birth. Music has the power to relax a person, which allows him or her to process emotions or physical limitations. Memories of songs stay with a person much longer than other events.
Music therapy has been used in many different settings to calm people, engage them in speech and help them connect with their surroundings. Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients respond very well to music, even when it is just played in the background during activities. Music has the ability to soothe and calm patients who are agitated. Playing music can reduce depression and anxiety. As a caregiver, you may not have any experience in music therapy, but you can listen to music with your patient to encourage him or her to engage with you.
Choosing the Right Music
The music you play will largely depend on your patient. With music apps like Spotify and Pandora, it’s easy to make playlists from a certain era or type of music. Baby boomers may enjoy Frank Sinatra, Perry Como or Ella Fitzgerald, but they may also like Elvis, The Beach Boys or Loretta Lynn. Classical music has been shown to lower stress levels in people recovering from open-heart surgery. This type of music relaxes a person and reduces anxiety, whether or not they are having surgery.
If your patient cannot communicate his or her preferences, ask family members or just do a trial and error. Use music that has the same tempo of the mood you want to invoke, then watch your patient’s mood. Live music can be especially rewarding. If your patient used to play a guitar, get it out and see if he or she can strum a few chords. Instead of a piano, a small electronic keyboard could help someone who used to play. If your patient enjoyed music in a theatrical setting and can no longer attend, get dressed up and set the stage for an “Evening at Pops.”
Play music to get your patient up and moving, if possible. Music played during physical therapy can stimulate a person to move, even if such movement is difficult. Keep in mind that some types of music may evoke difficult memories. Songs from the Vietnam War or from the Korean War may be hard for some people to listen to. Watch to see how your patient responds to the music.
Care for Seniors
Let us help you find senior care options that keep your loved comfortable. We have in-home care services that can keep a senior in their own home for as long as possible. Contact us for information about our caregivers.