The following video (Music Therapy with Dementia) was created by the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund.
Many people with dementia come to life when you provide music that is appropriate for them. This video shares beautiful moments occurred during a music therapy session.
In my last blog, I said I would write about practical ways of using music for people who have dementia. I found an excellent article, so I would like to share that with you. The following information was provided by Dr. Alicia Ann Clair, Ph.D., MT-BC, professor and director of the Division of Music Education and Music at the University of Kansas & Dr. Concetta M. Tomaino, DA, MT-BC, vice president for music therapy and director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services.
(Please watch this video first…)
Are you inspired by Henry and ready to use music for your loved ones? Here are some tips from a board-certified music therapist:
Personalizing the musical selection for your loved one is very important. Look through your loved one’s musical collections (e.g. records/cassette tapes/CDs :)). People with Alzheimer’s disease tend to respond well to the music from their young adulthood and teenage years. They may also respond to the music from their childhood. If your loved one has/had strong faith, spiritual songs usually continue to be meaningful for them. Try to play different songs from your loved one’s collections and see how she/he responds.
Are you using headphones like Henry or an iPod docking speaker? I believe Henry lives in a nursing home, and headphones seem to work well for him (at least while he is sitting in his wheelchair). Using headphones definitely allows people to listen to their individualized music in shared spaces. But if your loved one and others like the same types of music or if you want to be part of the “musical awakening”, it’s good to listen to the music together. So, play the music on an iPod docking speaker! There are so many different kinds of iPod speakers, so you can pick one depending on your preference and budget. Sharing music and reminiscing together definitely facilitate interaction between you and your loved one.
Back to headphones… If you want to use headphones for your loved one who is confused, there are a few things that we need to consider. First, please make sure the volume is appropriate. You may also want to “lock” her/his iPod/MP3 player, so that your loved one does not accidentally turn the volume too high or too low. Listening to music at a high intensity level can cause ear damage and may trigger agitation. Also, let’s make sure that your loved one (who is confused) does not try to put an iPod in her/his mouth. I have never seen anyone doing this, but I have seen a patient who tried to put an egg shaker in his mouth (yes, it does look like a colored egg…).
Additionally, wearing headphones for a long period of time can be uncomfortable for many people. We especially need to pay close attention to those who cannot consciously remove their headphones on their own when they become uncomfortable. I think an iPod docking speaker is more appropriate for them. Also, there are interesting things called “Speaker Pillow” or “Pillow Speaker” on the market. I have never used any of these, so please let me know if you have used one!
My next blog is going to be about “How to Use Music in a Practical Way for People with Dementia”!
This clip is from the documentary “Alive Inside”. Henry seems depressed and does not respond to anything but to his favorite music. I see this type of response almost everyday in my music therapy practice. Enjoy!
Dr. Tomaino, music therapist, talks about the benefits of music:
As a board-certified music therapist, I have been working with people who have dementia, including Alzheimer’s type, for almost 10 years. Appropriate music can bring back memories and facilitate interaction. Here are some tips for using music with your loved ones who have memory loss:
1. Even if you think you “can’t carry a tune in a bucket”, let’s sing. Your voice is meaningful to your loved ones, so that’s all matters. But if you feel very uncomfortable singing alone, sing along with your loved one’s favorite CDs etc.
2. Use music that is from your loved one’s teenage years/young adulthood. People are emotionally charged during these times, so the music from these eras has lots of meanings to people. If your loved one has progressed memory loss, she/he may respond to the music from their childhood.
3. Repeat & repeat. I found that people with memory loss respond well to repetitive songs, such as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”. Repetition helps the people join in the singing. Even if they cannot join in the first line, they can usually join during the 2nd and 3rd lines. If a song is not repetitive, you can repeat the 1st verse a few times rather than going to the 2nd and 3rd verses etc.
4. Slow down. Some people cannot sing at a fast tempo. I often need to slow down my singing, so that my clients can participate. That’s one of the reasons that live music is better than pre-recorded music. Live music is definitely flexible!
5. Usually people make brief comments after singing or listening to familiar songs (e.g., “That’s pretty.” & “My mother used to sing that song.”). If your loved one does so, ask him/her simple questions that are related to his/her comments. I had a client who did not remember anything about her family, so she thought that she was alone. She was very sad and lonely. But after singing a few familiar songs, she began talking about her family. This instantly changed her mood and affect. Reminiscing is a lot easier after using appropriate music.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Welcome to MUSICAL JOURNEY owned by Noriko, a Master’s level board-certified music therapist. We provide music therapy & music lessons/groups in the Greater Kansas City area.
Our clients for music therapy include but are not limited to: persons with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and history of stroke. We also serve hospice patients. The types of our music lessons are piano, guitar, voice, and ukulele.
Please contact us for a free consultation at 913-744-1265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.