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.