Community Blog

Music Therapy and the Family Member with Dementia

By John Heyworth, Care Coordinator

Music and the Dementia Family Member


Since World War II, neurologists and music professionals have discovered that music does not only soothe a troubled mind, but have found that it stimulates the brain on many levels.  These levels include those places that process emotion which stores memory where a person may draw that is not stored in the logical memory areas.  For one example of how this works, you may remember the poetry put to music much better than rote memorizing the lyrics as you would a poem, line by line.  One could say that the word is stored with a note that goes with it. Try this for fun - sing one song’s lyrics with the tune of another.  Very difficult. 


Patients that have brains affected by the ravages of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia have connections lost in some areas, but other connections can bypass the damaged nerves to stimulate memory that had been isolated.  Sometimes training and time heals old pathways and makes these detours possible, but music stores memories in many places. 


Consetta Tomaino, director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York, says “we at least know music is processed on many levels at once.”  “Tomiano’s observations, together with those of noted neurologist and colleague Dr. Oliver Sacks and others, that many people with neurological damage learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music. In numerous clinical studies of older adults with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, familiar and likable music, not medication, has reduced depression; lessened agitation increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability; and decreased problem behaviors.”


Consider playing music that the person with dementia has been known to like, during the course of their day.  If possible, get them involved in playing, singing, humming, or even moving around to the beat, melody, and lyrics to a favorite song or two.


As caregivers for Home Helpers Home Care, we are always looking for ways to help the health care team implement ways to make life better for our clients.  Call us and be a part of our team, as a client, caregiver, or other professional willing to give our elderly the quality of life they need in their home environment.