How Does Music Benefit People With Dementia?

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Music can have a great impact on our wellbeing — especially for people living with dementia.

That’s according to Fran Vandelli, Dementia Lead for Bupa Care Homes. 

Here, she tells us more.

A growing body of evidence shows that music and positive mental wellbeing are linked.

Studies specifically involving those with dementia reveal that music can benefit cognitive function, communication skills, and short-term quality of life and mood.

Currently, there’s not been much research into establishing whether specific music genres can provide greater health benefits over others.

However, research shows that music’s speed and volume can affect mood. Nonlyrical music with a speed between 60 and 80 beats per minute, and no louder than 60dB, is the most effective for stress reduction.

They’ll respond well to more familiar genres

For people with dementia, it is likely that they’ll respond well to more familiar genres, which can evoke memories.

This suggests that genres like heavy metal or rap might not be as effective, at least for this older generation.

Many of those with dementia report that the nostalgic element of music can help to link them to their personal history, like childhood or significant life events (such as their wedding).

This is something to keep in mind when thinking about music – especially for older people.

Sometimes there’s an assumption that all older people will like classics from the 1920s.

In reality, songs from the 1940s and 50s might be more relevant as they’ll help bring back memories.

Don’t forget that Music for Dementia has a useful free radio function that allows you to access playlists based on your loved one’s year of birth, as well as mixes that change in tempo throughout the day.

Music as a form of complementary therapy

Using music as a form of complementary therapy can provide many benefits when used either on a one-on-one or group basis. This is especially true if the music is in a live singalong format.

What’s more, music can provide mental stimulation, even for those who struggle to show interest in what’s going on around them.

But it’s important to remember that people may react to music in different ways.

Whilst some people may find that music has a calming effect on their loved one, others may find that it’s a more agitating and triggering experience. Through trial and error, it’s useful to know how your loved one will react to different music.

It’s important to remember that their reaction to music may vary day-to-day, too.

Start music gently, at quieter volume and gauge your loved one’s reaction – are they tapping along or humming?

If they seem to be enjoying it, this can provide a nice outlet to engage and connect with them, whether it’s through singing or dancing together, or simply holding their hand.

Click here for more health tips from “The People’s Friend”.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.