Keeping People with Dementia Active Through Music

Editor’s Note: Here is the outline of a presentation I’m giving on using music as an activity with people who have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. It’s geared to professional caregivers, but I think it will be helpful for family members as well.  — MAB 

1. Introduction: You, Your Loved Ones or Clients, and Music
– What is your earliest memory of music?
– Did you sing as a child? Did you play an instrument?
– Do your loved ones or clients with dementia listen to music? What kinds of music?

2. What Music Does for Us
According to neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, music can:
-“Animate
– Organize
– Bring a sense of identity back to people who are out of it.”

VIDEO of dementia patient Henry responding to his favorite music, from the documentary Alive Inside
http: //www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fyZQf0p73QM

3. Music Is a Whole-Brain Exercise

GRAPHIC: Why Your Brain Loves That New Song
http://news.sciencemag.org/2013/04/why-your-brain-loves-new-song

VIDEO: Gabby Giffords: Finding Voice Through Music Therapy
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/gabby-giffords-finding-voice-music-therapy/story?id=14903987

4. Bringing Music to People with Dementia

ARTICLE: How Can Music Help People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease?
http://www.dementiatoday.com/how-can-music-help-people-who-have-alzheimers-disease/

VIDEO: Validation Therapy founder Naomi Feil reaches out to Gladys Wilson, a woman with advanced dementia
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrZXz10FcVM

5. Using Music for ADLs (Activities for Daily Living)

SONGS for children on such activities as brushing teeth or taking a bath can be adapted for adults.
http://www.songsforteaching.com/everyday/everydayroutines.htm

6. Making Up Our Own Songs with Clients or Loved Ones

VIDEO: How Musical Improvisation Can Be Used with Children with Special Needs by music therapist Ryan Judd
http://www.therhythmtree.com/video-blog/entry/how-musical-improvisation-can-be-used-with-children-with-special-needs

7. Using Music for Ourselves: Stress Reduction and Relaxation

CHANT by Mary Ann Barton: “In This Moment, with This Breath”
https://joyousparadox.com/2013/07/03/dear-readers-im-sharing-secrets-of-my-happiness-singing-video-healing-pain-craving

Selected References:

For Elders with Dementia, Musical Awakenings: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/18/150891711/for-elders-with-dementia-music-sparks-great-awakenings?goback=%2Egde_111042_member_109297484. This is an NPR interview about the video of nursing-home resident Henry responding to music by jazz great Cab Calloway.

How Music Affects the Brain and How You Can Use It to Your Advantage: http://lifehacker.com/5865032/how-music-affects-the-brain-and-how-you-can-use-it-to-your-advantage.

How to Create a Personalized Playlist for Your Loved One at Home from Music & Memory: http://musicandmemory.org/training-publications/personalized-music-resource-guides/.

The Neuroscience of Music: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/the-neuroscience-of-music/.

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

Pandora.com Internet Radio is a resource for listening with your loved ones or clients to discover what music they prefer:  http://www.pandora.com/station/play/1537650287030860791.

Soundscaping Source – Musical Materials and Ideas for Eldercare Professionals from music therapist Rachelle Norman: http://www.soundscapingsource.com/

4 thoughts on “Keeping People with Dementia Active Through Music

  1. Mary Ann,
    Great meeting you today at Kate Munger’s Threshold Choir workshop in Littleton.
    I love this YouTube video and have sent it to many people wanting to know more about the healing and – I dare say – resurrecting power of music.
    Check out this link to a TEDx talk I gave about the growth of hospice choirs in America.

    I look forward to further exchanges of info!

    Regards,
    John Bos

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    1. John, I just watched the video of your TEDx Talk about hospice choirs, and I found it very moving, very poignant. I think the connections we make through singing and listening together can be full of meaning.

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