How to Introduce Music Therapy in Dementia Care at Home?

Free photo smiley senior man in a nursing home with nurse

What is Music Therapy

Music therapy is the clinical use of music by a trained therapist to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. In dementia care, music therapy can provide a way for caregivers to connect with their loved ones, ease anxiety and agitation, and boost mood and cognition.

Benefits of Music Therapy for Dementia

Research shows that musical memory is often preserved in dementia patients even when other memories fade. Listening to and participating in familiar songs taps into long-term memories and can help dementia patients recall past experiences and engage positively in the present moment. Other benefits include:

  • Reducing agitation and anxiety
  • Improving mood and decreasing depression
  • Enhancing cognitive functioning
  • Promoting socialization and connection

How to Bring Music Therapy Home

While working with a professional music therapist provides maximum benefits, caregivers can incorporate elements of music therapy at home. Here are some tips:

1. Identify musical tastes and history.

Determine the types of music your loved one enjoyed at different life stages to create customized playlists that tap into memories. Also note any musical talents or hobbies.

2. Make music part of the daily routine.

Play favorite music during activities like bathing, dressing, meals, chores, and down time. You can even play music overnight to help reduce sundowning behaviors.

3. Encourage singing and movement.

Have singalongs or dance sessions to familiar songs. Clapping, finger tapping, marching in place to the beat also keeps the body and mind active.

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4. Use music for reminiscence.

Look at old photos or mementos while listening to hits from the past. Let the memories flow naturally, without pressuring your loved one.

5. Be flexible and patient.

Reactions to music therapy activities may vary day to day. Provide gentle encouragement but don’t force participation. Adjust approaches as needed.

6. Try instrument play.

Simple percussion instruments like maracas, bells, drums can help facilitate movement and expression. Familiar instruments from the past may evoke memories too.

7. Limit background noise.

Too many competing sounds can be overstimulating. Turn off TVs and radios when doing focused music therapy.

Additional Tips

  • Keep music therapy sessions relatively short to accommodate potentially short attention spans.
  • Use both active techniques like singing and dancing along with passive listening.
  • Monitor reactions for signs of anxiety or irritation and adjust the approaches being used if needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to get silly and playful – laughter and levity have therapeutic benefits too!

The right music can work wonders in dementia care. With some creativity and flexibility, introducing music therapy techniques at home can help lift mood, reduce behaviors, stimulate cognition, and enrich the connection between caregiver and loved one.

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