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: