Music and Memory: Dementia Patients Respond to Music

Music stirs memories

Jukebox Jive by JeffHBlum

Music has been a powerful influence in my life, so it comes as no surprise to me that music has been shown to affect memory and soothe the beast of Alzheimer’s disease for those afflicted by this hideous monster. For that reason, I took great interest in the local newspaper’s recent story, “Music & Memory program soothes, uplifts people with dementia” by Dean Olsen. The article explains the efforts of the program Music & Memory to bring personalized music to dementia sufferers to help trigger memories from happier times and improve their quality of life. I was delighted to learn that the Alzheimer’s facility in my hometown is a certified provider of the Music & Memory program for its residents.

There is a beautiful photo in the newspaper article showing a resident of the Alzheimer’s facility in town enjoying her favorite music. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear after seeing how happy she looked with her headphones on dancing around. This is such a beautiful sight, I just have to share!

Music & Memory helps Alzheimer's Dementia Patients

Photo Courtesy of the State Journal Register

And here is a powerful video showing just how music can trigger happy memories and break the communication barrier with a man suffering from dementia named Henry.

I saw the benefits music could provide firsthand with my own mother as she progressed through the various stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In the earlier stages, playing her favorite music by artists like Neil Diamond or Bing Crosby helped to relieve her anxiety and lessen her confusion. As her dementia progressed into the middle stages, music transported her to a happier place as she danced and clapped her hands in pure, unadulterated joy. And in the final horrible stage, I played music to take her as far away from the nothingness as her mind would allow. Music was with my mother all along her path through dementia, and that helped both of us to cope in different ways.

I cannot listen to a Neil Diamond song now without thinking of my mother and missing her, this is an emotional connection I will now always have with a certain kind of music. Thanks to Music & Memory for helpings those with dementia to remember happiness and emotions they associate with music from their past. I certainly hope that many more dementia facilities will look into using music to help bring joy to their residents while breaking through the isolating wall of Alzheimer’s disease.

We can do our part to help the Music & Memory program by donating used iPods that we don’t need any longer! We are always upgrading to newer electronic devices, right? That makes this a really easy way to support Music & Memory. Round up your old iPods and send them in!

What about you? Has music had a positive influence on someone you know with dementia?

Brought To Our Senses family saga novel by Kathleen H. Wheeler

2 thoughts on “Music and Memory: Dementia Patients Respond to Music

  1. Paul R. Matta

    This is so good to hear. I have been singing to patients (hospital, Nursing homes, and Alzheimers units)for more than 15 years and what Ive seen is amazing and especially to the family members and nursing staff. Ive whistled favorite songs, hymns, tunes and they light up or are filled with a peace. Some will remember those that have gone before or a certain time of their life.

    1. Kathleen H. Wheeler Post author

      I agree, Paul. How wonderful that something so simple could have such a profound affect on those afflicted with dementia!

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