The Benefits of Music Therapy for Dementia


“The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune,” advises an Irish proverb. While many suggest it’s a reminder that things often grow better with age, it can also indicate that seniors have a larger assortment of unique memories that are just waiting to be shared. That’s part of what makes dementia so cruel. By causing cognitive difficulties that interrupt memory, decision-making, and communication, this degenerative issue can interfere with a person’s sense of self, curtail their ability to function independently, and isolate them by interfering with their social connections. Thankfully, music builds bridges, and music therapy for dementia can provide several important benefits for patients.

Exploring Music and Memory

As the holidays approach, many people are thinking about a special dish. Whether it’s a family recipe that’s always served or a traditional holiday must-have, food is an entrenched part of their holiday experience and it brings fond memories to mind. While food is known to be a trigger of autobiographical memories, Psychology Today reports that a 2023 study discovered that music is a stronger one. Music brought a greater number of memories to mind with greater spontaneity. It also triggered memories that participants considered more important.

It’s no surprise that music can be helpful for memory and healing. As the American Music Therapy Association points out, the idea of music as a healing tool appears in the writings of Aristotle and Plato. Music therapy has been in use in modern clinical settings since World War I. Today, music therapy is used everywhere from schools and daycare centers to outpatient clinics and hospitals to rehabilitative centers and senior living communities.

Discovering the Benefits That Music Therapy Offers Dementia Patients

How does music therapy help with dementia? As Medical News Today reports, when dementia progresses, it often damages the person’s ability to interact and engage with the people around them. This creates difficulties for both the patient and their caregivers. Music seems to be able to bypass some of the blockages created by dementia to reach memories and touch emotions. Patients who seem completely nonresponsive will sometimes engage with music; some will respond by singing along or singing their own songs in reply. Others who have trouble regulating their emotions can find comfort or peace when familiar songs from their past are played. For some, a song will trigger a precious memory and help them reconnect.

Any of these outcomes can ease the patient’s stress, decrease the depression that often accompanies dementia, and improve their quality of life. As an added bonus, it can also ease the distress and stress of caregivers.

Delving into the Delivery of Music Therapy

Music therapy for dementia is a drug-free way to improve a dementia patient’s mood and sense of well-being. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a program for your loved one that’s offered by a professional music therapist, but their numbers are limited. Fortunately, music is widely available, so if you can’t find a music therapist, you can still find music.

Music therapy can offer benefits whether it’s done individually or in groups. It can use prerecorded music, live concerts, or music the participants make themselves. While it may take some trial and error to find what works best, experts say that the songs the patients listened to from late childhood through their mid-twenties will probably have the strongest connection because they link to foundational memories. Listening is a good start, but inviting your loved one to participate is even better. Whether you clap along, hum, sing, or dance, getting involved helps make the memory stronger. Some people with dementia even thrive by learning to play an instrument. With music therapy for dementia, the possibilities are as varied as people’s musical tastes.

Music, gardening, crafts, friendship, and the things that matter most to you are priorities at Beach House Assisted Living & Memory Care. If you hope to retire in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the Beach House Assisted Living & Memory Care could be the ideal place. Our friendly and compassionate staff members offer individualized care 24/7, ensuring the safety, security, and happiness of all residents. The Beach House provides assisted living, memory care, and respite care. Most importantly, we tailor these services to suit the unique needs of each resident. To learn more about our amenities or schedule a tour, please get in touch with us online or give us a call at 904-615-8076. We look forward to hearing from you!