“Music has Charms to Soothe”

Some recently reported news from San Fransisco on the virtues of music in the treatment of dementia,  showed that music therapy can significantly reduce depression and agitation in patients with dementia.  Music affects parts of the brain which may not have been affected by the illness and make it possible to connect with good emotional memories.

In the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, we had several nursing homes that specialised in high dependency dementia and yet by tapping into familiar music, it was possible to reach back into happier times.  Residents who had lost most of their communication skills could sing along with familiar tunes from the past.

This was not piped music to create an appearance of calm but properly researched memories of former times.  Nor was it all wartime songs which often held sadder recollections.

The ballads of the forties and fifties, still could be conjured up from most people’s minds and Elvis Presley songs could get everyone  up and dancing or at least singing along.

These are not new revelations, but they are certainly worth repeating.  Music has great potential to enhance the lives of many people with dementia and relieve the boredom of everyday forgetfulness.  Too often activity like this is regarded only as entertainment rather than therapy. It is seen as a luxury which cannot be afforded in stringent financial times.  Often it is substituted by the palliative of daytime TV.

Proper individualised care of older people is a mark of human decency, our current treatment of people with dementia rarely achieves this.  Music therapy is one way to bring a smile back to lost faces.

P.S.       Just after writing this blog, I found a reference to a concert in New York being given by a choir of residents with dementia and their relatives.  They are called “The Unforgettables”.

What a great name and a fantastic idea !  That’s what caring for people with dementia should be about.

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5 Responses to “Music has Charms to Soothe”

  1. Maureen o'Neill says:

    If you like pop music, or what sometimes passes as music, which serenade our ears every time we go shopping probably some people would enjoy this but if like me you cannot stand Elvis or many other pop singers I would not like this and I don’t think I would find it very helpful.

    The thought of dementia worries me and I hope it misses me, but should it not I dread to think of singing that rubbish. (Not that I can sing) I am sure there must be people with dementia who would find, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Vaughan Williams etc. far more relaxing and calming. I am sure music does affect the brain and I certainly love music.The occasional music from from musicals – Phantom of the Opera. Cats, South Pacific, etc are also enjoyable. People are not all the same, even those with dementia, and whilst I know little about this illness it does seem to me that all dementia patients get lumped together in the melting pot.

  2. Capital237 says:

    As an olde smoothe, and good looking to boot? Your charm goes before you, and as you so rightly say music charms the birds out of the trees, whether it be clasical notes, jazz or some hebbie jebbie music which I adore. I can metophorically hear your dulcet tones amongst the moans and and groans of these bloggs, and like my memories it is most pleasent to recall happy events, and have a dream or two ot things past. Even a smile has music, especially from the orchestra’s wind section. I smile be cause I enjoy it, and enjoy reading your erudite passages you quote from your breadth and quality of reading matieral. Good on Yerh John.

  3. Capital237 says:

    Cracked it I have a new handle? Excellent.!!! I can pass between my two traits of charcter? Wonderful??

  4. Angelica says:

    There was an older man who sold trees and shrubs at the local farmer’s market and I always spoke a few words with him when purchasing something. One day, with no prior conversation, he started telling me about a swimming championship he had won in his youth and stood straight and tall as he though he was reliving it. I thought it was unusual and at end of summer, I read in the obituaries that he had passed away. Think you are right about the elderly going back in their minds to the happiest times.

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