Music as Dementia Therapy

Illustration image: Kristine B Barane
Illustration image: Kristine B Barane
Illustration image: Kristine B Barane
Illustration image: Kristine B Barane

Is anything greater in music than lyrics and rhythm? Can we use it to treat people with dementia?

Music. You find it everywhere, on both radio, TV and in stores. The rhythm of trains, cars, and the sounds of the street rush around you everyday. What do you associate the word with? Concerts? Artists? Bands? Or different genres, maybe?

Personally, I would like to think of music as something more than catchy lyrics and lots of bass. Today we have extraordinary popular singers and songwriters. Take for example Adele, Beyoncé and Sam Smith. Could their music become more than tunes from our headphones and speakers?

One new case every 3.2 seconds
My sister, Elisabeth Brandsdal Barane, studied music therapy for dementia patients for her final bachelor degree. “Music makes us feel, makes us forget negative thoughts and brings out positive and encouraging thoughts. It creates a sense of mastery, improves memory and increases the concentration. In addition to this, music gives you an opportunity to liberate oppressed feelings in the body, stress reduction and allows us to feel that we live in time with the music”, she found out.

Music makes people happy. It makes us both smile and cry. When music has this effect on us, you could say that music is also therapy. This YouTube video is very inspirational. This man’s reaction is the definition of the effect music has on human beings.

Watch it and you will see it for yourself:

 “There are an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 74.7 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050,” does it say on Alzheimer’s Disease International´s website. There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds.

“Music Is The Quickening Art”
In these situations this little means so much. Henry in the video has severe dementia. When he got to listen to music from his youth he blossomed. He was so happy, and he connected to the world around and managed to answer simple questions. Henry has spent ten years in the nursing room and his daughter describes how he was always into music. “He loved singing and dancing”, she said.

When Henry is given an iPod containing his favorite music his face lights up. As the man in the video says: “music is the quickening art”.

“Music as therapy helps make a sense of identity for people who are out of it otherwise, music will bring them back into their own life and memories”, he also said.

Would it not be great if everyone associated music with therapy from now on? And saw the beauty of what music has to offer, not only in everyday life, but also for helping patients in the future.

What kind of therapy does music give you in your everyday life?

Feel free to comment and discuss underneath.

Follow this link and you will find a website about music therapy and dementia care in Ireland.

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