Alzheimer’s disease is one of the more frightening conditions we deal with regularly. Not only do people forget where they are and basic functions, it also robs them of their short-and long-term memories. That’s why the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care tries to pay careful attention to current research into Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and also finds ways to incorporate different techniques and therapies to help our patients as much as possible.
Though Alzheimer’s disease still has the same irreversible outcome, we keep finding and trying various methods to keep its symptoms from progressing as quickly in some patients and allow them to spend as much lucid time as possible with their loved ones.
One area of research and therapy that’s particularly exciting to many of us is music.
It’s not a surprise that music plays an important part of our lives, starting with basic lullabies and nursery rhymes when we’re children. Music has a role as grow as well, from school dances to concerts to other special occasions.
Even if everyone likes different styles of music, hearing a favorite type or artist can bring pleasure. Other pieces of music can get people excited, relaxed, anxious or scared, which is why every movie or TV show has some kind of soundtrack to help establish the mood.
Songs also give us a reference to our history and help trigger memories. “This song reminds me of high school.” “I danced to this song at my wedding.” “My daughter used to play this song over and over.” “This was the song they played in that movie I liked.”
Interestingly, people with dementia also can have these reactions, even if they aren’t responsive to other stimuli or able to recall other present details.
But research into the role of music has found that it can help create and improve neural connections and help people with Alzheimer’s in several ways.
Hearing certain songs helps people recall memories, including the emotion attached to a memory/song.
- It can be calming, whether played directly for that person or background music.
- Memorizing details are easier to recall as a song than as a list or collection of info.
- It can have positive results when combined with other physical activities such as dancing/rhythmic movement.
- Singing a song out loud can also help recall memories and improve vocal abilities.
- Music can sometimes “reach” patients when other treatments fail.
- It often can reduce the need for medications for pain or anxiety.
The National Institutes of Health has concluded that music therapy has the potential to reduce cognitive decline, especially when combined with other therapeutic methods. While the NIH recommends more research, its findings are helpful to family members with loved ones in any stage of Alzheimer’s, along with those in the health care industry who are looking for ways to help patients as much as possible.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a variety of resources for caregivers, home health care providers and assisted living centers that want to learn more about the value of music therapy for their patients.
While anyone can likely see positive results if they play certain songs from a patient’s past, Music Therapists have received advanced training in ways to utilize music to help people through music in a health care or a counseling setting.
These therapists are often proficient in various musical instruments but also have learned how to work with patients and incorporate music, rhythm and other techniques to hopefully stimulate them and even get them participating and more alert.
They also may be trained in how to work with people if music evokes other reactions. For instance, some music may unlock unhappy yet vivid memories from the past, or hearing unfamiliar music may cause anxiety.
Therapists need credentials or a degree from a college or university plus certification from various music therapy associations.
Music therapists may be hired on staff for a facility or a home health agency. They can be asked to set up or teach group classes in the community or work with individuals.
What we offer
Above and Beyond Home Health Care is proud to offer music therapy as one of our options to help our patients, especially those battling Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Our experience has also been similar to some of the national research: music can be calming and comforting; it can help reduce pain and relax patients; and can offer stimulation and the opportunity to improve communication. Music can also be accompanied by movement which can help someone’s efforts to be more independent, and it can also help bring memories from the past, which can evoke happier times.
Two trained music therapists work with patients to find ways to reduce their overall stress levels that may be causing mental, physical, emotional and social pain, plus cognitive problems. After observing patients and learning about their background, including favorite musical styles, they’ll put a customized therapy plan together to achieve certain goals.
Visit Above and Beyond Home Health Care for more information about music therapy and other home health care options.