Music to Your Ears: How Melodies Support Cognitive Health

Have you ever noticed how a favorite song can put you in a better mood? Or how a toe-tapping beat brings a smile to your face?

Studies show music has the power to improve emotional and physical health. It also supports memory recall in people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.

Music’s Effect on the Mind

Listening to music can have a calming effect and improve behavior management for people in the middle stages of dementia. It also reduces anxiety, relieves stress and eases depression in patients and caregivers.

Memories associated with music or songs are often unaffected by the progression of cognitive decline. Playing your loved one’s favorite songs can evoke emotions tied to past events, places and people. It also stimulates the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for long-term memories.

Musical appreciation and skills are typically among the last cognitive functions affected by memory loss. There have been many instances of people with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s playing their favorite instrument and completing songs from memory.

Familiar songs also create a sense of security that provides reassurance and peace of mind to those coping with increased confusion.

Adding simple musical instruments like maracas or tambourines creates a complete sensory experience for someone with dementia because it elevates the positive impact of music and memory stimulation.

The Social Aspect of Listening to Music

Singing or dancing with a group of people is beneficial to those who are cognitively impaired. Staying socially active provides the brain with essential stimulation needed to maintain connections between neurons and help establish new ones.

Reminiscing about a beloved song can create positive reactions and encourage emotional intimacy with family and friends. That’s especially important in the latter stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s, when verbal communication can become difficult. Using music to express emotions may be easier than trying to find the right words.

Playing music is also fun. Your loved one may enjoy singing, tapping their feet or clapping along to the rhythm. Providing simple musical instruments also helps seniors stay physically active in a social setting.

Music Therapy Techniques

  • Lyric analysis: Discussing the meaning of song lyrics engages critical thinking skills. It also allows seniors to express the feelings they associate with music and encourages emotional wellness.
  • Listening for enjoyment: Hearing a favorite song can boost your loved one’s mood and help redirect their attention from physical or emotional discomfort. Ask your loved one about their favorite songs and compile a collection of music to play when they’re feeling sad or upset.
  • Music and guided meditation: Using music during guided meditation is an effective way to promote concentration and ease stress. Music doesn’t require extensive mental processing, so it’s an easy and effective destressing tool.
  • Playing instruments: Keeping time with a beat and using their hands promotes fine motor skills in seniors experiencing cognitive decline. It’s also an effective way to teach new skills to some and refine past abilities in others.

Kemper House Worthington offers a comprehensive music program that uses the power of melodies to bring back memories and reduce anxiety. Your loved one will enjoy playing and listening to music in an active and engaging environment. Contact us online or call 614-896-8700 for more information.