Music therapy for Dementia is a non-pharmacological intervention that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. It has shown significant improvement in cognitive function, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life for dementia patients.
According to the Population Reference Bureau of America: More than 7 million people ages 65 or older had dementia in 2020. If current demographic and health trends continue, more than 9 million Americans could have dementia by 2030.
Dementia is a prevalent condition affecting millions of people worldwide, with an estimated 50 million people living with dementia in 2020 alone.
The impact of dementia is far-reaching, not only affecting the patients but also their families and caregivers. While there is no cure for dementia, various treatment options can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients.
Let’s explore the relationship between music therapy and dementia and uncover the science behind music therapy and its benefits for cognitive and emotional health.
We will also discuss various techniques and approaches used in music therapy and light on the potential of music therapy as an effective and holistic treatment for dementia patients.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a group of cognitive disorders that affects memory, thinking, and social abilities, among other mental functions. It is caused by damage or loss of brain cells and can be progressive, meaning it worsens over time.
Dementia can have a profound impact on an individual’s ability to function in daily life, including communication, decision-making, and independent living. There are various types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia, among others.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects the brain’s ability to think, reason, and remember. Some common symptoms of dementia include:
- Memory loss: Individuals with dementia often experience significant memory loss, especially regarding recent events.
- Difficulty with communication: Dementia can impact an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, making it challenging to express themselves and understand others. This is often known as Aphasia. It is a severe condition and a very rare disorder of dementia.
- Changes in mood and behavior: Dementia patients may experience changes in mood, including increased anxiety, depression, and irritability. They may also exhibit changes in behavior, such as apathy or aggression.
- Impaired judgment: Dementia can cause problems with judgment and decision-making, making it difficult for individuals to make sound choices.
- Difficulty with daily activities: Dementia can impact an individual’s ability to complete everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, and preparing meals.
- Confusion and disorientation: Dementia patients may become easily confused or disoriented, especially in unfamiliar settings.
- Difficulty with problem-solving: Individuals with dementia may struggle to solve problems or complete complex tasks.
Early Signs of Dementia
When we are stressed or tired or maybe we didn’t sleep we could have all of the symptoms of dementia but not have dementia.
This relates to a couple that went to the doctor with early signs of dementia. The doctor asked the husband when he first noticed signs of dementia. To which he replied he is not sure but he came to know about it when his wife started to diagnose.
When they were sitting there they were going back and forth and the husband was having problems remembering certain things and his wife was constantly correcting him and telling him “Honey, you forgot again. You’re mixing up your words and blah blah.
The doctor told the patient’s wife that what she was doing was making things worse as she reminds her husband that he made a mistake. They’re going to keep making the mistake over and over again.
The couple was told to experiment. The doctor instructed the wife to let him make mistakes and just not to correct him at all for one week.
Surprisingly, when they came back after a week, it was quite amazing because the husband was articulate. He was sharp and didn’t seem to have any cognitive dysfunction at all.
We brought you this real story just to bring to your notice that if you experience some of the signs that we are going to discuss ahead doesn’t necessarily mean that you are suffering from dementia. It doesn’t mean that you have dementia.
If you have these occasionally or know someone who shows these symptoms, first try to check some of the things. It could be sleep, blood sugar, or any other thing. So we must check all the parameters.
Dementia is a mental decline and what’s usually happening is that certain parts of your brain are atrophying. This means they are shrinking. In Dementia, specifically, a structure called the hippocampus is affected which we will learn ahead along the early signs.
- Difficulty Organizing & Planning
Difficulty organizing and planning is a common symptom of dementia that can affect a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and activities. It can manifest in different ways, such as difficulty with following instructions, completing tasks on time, or organizing personal belongings.
Dementia patients may struggle with decision-making and may have trouble creating and following routines.
- Change in Personlaity
Personality change is another common symptom of dementia, which can include alterations in behavior, mood, and attitude.
It can manifest as a shift from a person’s previous temperament or disposition, with the individual exhibiting sudden mood swings, agitation, or becoming unusually passive or aggressive.
People with dementia may also demonstrate a lack of interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed or become increasingly irritable, anxious, or depressed
Well, just because you have constipation does not mean you have dementia but it is one of the early signs simply because of the connection between the gut and the brain.
Your gut is like a second brain. You have more nerve fibers in your digestive system than you do in your spinal column and a lot of cognitive problems actually can stem from your gut.
The microbiome in your gut, all those bacteria, make neurotransmitters. These little microbes make more serotonin than your brain.
People that have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s have a much higher incidence of constipation than someone who doesn’t have it.
- Sensory Dysfunction
The next is sensory dysfunction which includes issues with smell, taste, hearing, or eyesight. It can also be loss of appetite.
All of these could be some of the early signs of a cognitive decline and as it declines more and more the ability to focus the ability to concentrate and your overall memory is affected.
- Language problems
Often, you are trying to find words for certain things, and you tend to repeat things over and over again, or you might be mixing up your words.
A person can talk and make sentences fine but it’s incoherent. What they are saying does not make sense. That is extremely frustrating because the person is trying to get out of this communication but it’s coming out very randomly. This is mainly a problem with this hippocampus and the hippocampus is just shrinking.
- Inability To Navigate
The last sign of early dementia is the inability to navigate well in new places. So, let’s say, for example, you’re going into a new place.
You are trying to find a store and you just cannot find this location. This is because in our brain, we have a GPS that allows us to locate where we are in space, and when this area goes down you lose your GPS. So, your internal map is dysfunctional and you just cannot find out where you are.
If you have any one or some of the above signs could be an early sign of dimension and it is necessary to get it confirmed by a doctor rather than relying on someone’s opinion.
Tips to prevent or decrease the chances of getting afflicted by Dementia
Here are seven things that you need to do to prevent dementia before it becomes more advanced.
The best time to correct this is in these early stages as compared to waiting before it becomes a big problem.
If you get it early enough but the big problem in medicine is the lack of importance or significance that your diet makes in this area of your body.
They don’t seem to connect the dots between the great importance of what you eat and how that can affect your brain.
Usually, it is referred to as genetic or some stress things and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But let me tell you one thing your diet is key in preventing and even reversing dementia if you can get it diagnosed in its early stages.
The first thing for prevention is to know what shrinks your hippocampus.
The common cause that affects the hippocampus is a thiamine deficiency. That is a B1 deficiency.
Now, Vitamin B1 deficiency can happen by excessive consumption of alcohol.
It can also happen when you’re on a high-carb diet. If you’re consuming a lot of carbohydrates, you deplete vitamin b1. The more sugar you eat, the more carbohydrates you consume and the more is the demand for Vitamin B1.
This means your body needs more Thiamine when you consume carbohydrates. You need vitamin B1 to metabolize carbohydrates and the more alcohol you drink the more B1 you need as well.
1. Fix The Gut
You need to fix the gut and the microbiome. Interesting research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s shows that often a lack of diversity in the microbiome is found in patients. There always seems to be gut inflammation in these patients as well. So one of the important things to do is to increase the diversity of the microbiome.
One of the best ways to do that is to start consuming different types of vegetables not just one type of vegetable over and over again.
Just potato or cucumber and so on.
If you take salad then have a wide variety of different types of salad with different types of fibers that have different phytonutrients that strengthen different strands.
Another way is to do fasting. Fasting increases the diversity of your microbiome. Yes, you read that right. You might be thinking if you starved off the microbes they would get weaker but they get stronger and you have new strains that just kind of come out and start to thrive. It’s part of the survival mechanism that has been evolving for thousands of years in your DNA.
One more thing to understand is that transmission between your gut and brain is bidirectional. Through the vagus nerve, you have information going from the gut to the brain and information going from the brain down to the gut.
So, if you have a problem with your brain you’re gonna have a problem with your gut and vice versa.
A good amount of the neurotransmitters are produced by your microbes. A good amount of the b vitamins are made by your microbes and there’s been some really good research on getting people off gluten and seeing huge improvements in dementia.
Gluten can worsen dementia and I’m not just talking about going on a gluten-free diet, but I’m talking about going on a low-carb no grain diet.
Another thing to prevent Dementia is preventing GMO foods. Foods that have been exposed to glyphosate, an herbicide, are not good for your brain. Glyphosate works by destroying microorganisms. It destroys certain pathways in microbes like bacteria that can affect our microbes just like it affects the microbes in the soil.
So, it is recommended that you start consuming more organic foods or say non-GMO foods.
2. Take Diet Rich in Vitamin B1
Start taking b1 and nutritional yeast which is the best source of b1 and just make sure that you get the kind that’s not fortified with synthetic vitamins. It is recommended to go on the natural side because synthetic vitamins might work initially but they are not a good long-term solution.
You also want to do things that will prevent a b1 deficiency and that would be not drinking alcohol anymore and also giving up on excessive carbs diets. You can consume vegetable carbohydrates.
3. Regular Consumption of Sprouts
This is pretty powerful. Some great research on consuming more sprouts like broccoli sprouts shows that these broccoli sprouts have sulforaphane. A unique thing about sprouts is that they come from these little seeds.
If you were to consume the seed it won’t give you proper nutrients. Secondly, they would be very difficult to digest.
But when it sprouts you have incredible amounts of nutrition that’s released and so if you consume sprouts regularly, you are not only getting some of the peak nutrition that a plant has but you are also getting certain phytonutrients that are anti-cancer.
Sulfurophane in broccoli sprouts is fantastic for any type of neurodegenerative disorder. Moreover, sprouts are really good for your gut.
As we know that with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, the incidence of leaky gut is very high. So, it is recommended to include sprouts regularly in your salad. They are very cheap to grow by yourself so you don’t need to wait to get them from the supermarkets.
4. Add Supplementary Ketones
This is also very important. Ketones bypass the damage in the brain and feed the neurons directly.
For a moment think about what happens when you have dementia. Your hippocampus is damaged. You’re getting destruction of your brain cells.
So, we need to restore that we need to feed the brain cells fuel.
To do so, as the brain is not getting glucose fuel, you must feed it. With ketone fuel, it can thrive.
If you have any stage of dementia at all you need to be doing regular intermittent fasting as well as periodic prolonged fasting then and you’re going to see huge benefits.
By doing so, you are going to generate a lot more ketones than you would even if you went a low-carb diet and you’re also going to up-regulate all sorts of genetic factors that support your brain.
You can also consume Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) MCT oil. MCT is a type of fat found in oils, such as coconut and palm oil. You can also use exogenous ketones as a supplement. Taking a tablespoon of MCT oil twice a day can help your brain a lot.
5. Ginkgo Biloba
One of the oldest species of living trees is ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). The extract from the ginkgo’s fan-shaped leaves is used in the majority of its products.
Flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants, and terpenoids, which increase blood flow by widening blood vessels and lessen platelet “stickiness,” are thought to be the most beneficial ginkgo leaf constituents.
The most popular forms of ginkgo include oral tablets, extracts, capsules, and tea. Ginkgo seeds can be harmful, therefore avoid eating them raw or roasted.
Ginkgo biloba has shown some significant benefits for dementia patients specifically the extract EGB- 761. This extract gives you some significant neural protection for your brain.
6. Consuming Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is just another fascinating food that helps with dementia. it grows on the trunks of dead hardwood trees like oak. There is a long history of using this mushroom in East Asian medicine practice.
The research done on lion’s mane impacting your cognitive function is not insignificant. But it has shown improvements and creates a significant impact on your brain.
The function and growth of nerves can be enhanced by lion’s mane mushrooms. Furthermore, it could guard against nerve injury. The stomach lining gets to be protected as well.
7. Physical Activity and Sleep
Doing some exercise helps to increase oxygen to your brain. If you’re not sleeping enough then you are going to jack up cortisol. In turn, it is going to make you feel more stressed. As a result, you are going to deplete the brain of oxygen.
Follow the above-mentioned diet and tips to prevent yourself from Dementia.
How Music Affects Different Parts of the Brain Which Help in Managing Dementia or Aphasia?
Music has been shown to have a powerful effect on the brain, and it has been used as a therapeutic tool in the management of various neurological conditions, including dementia. Here are some ways that music can affect different parts of the brain and help in managing dementia:
The emotional centers of the brain are primarily located in the limbic system, which includes structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and thalamus.
The amygdala is involved in the processing of emotions, particularly fear, and anxiety, and plays a role in the formation of emotional memories. The hippocampus, on the other hand, is involved in the formation and retrieval of memories, including emotional memories.
Music can activate these emotional centers by evoking emotions associated with past experiences, which can be particularly beneficial for people with dementia who may have difficulty remembering recent events.
For example, listening to music from their youth or songs that they have fond memories of can help them to recall past experiences and emotions associated with those experiences.
Research has shown that music can have a powerful effect on emotions and can even change the brain’s chemistry by increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can lead to an improvement in mood and a reduction in stress and anxiety.
Music therapy for aphasia or dementia often involves using music to help people with dementia express their emotions and communicate their needs.
For example, playing calming music can help to reduce agitation and anxiety, while playing upbeat music can improve mood and promote social interaction.
Thus, activating the emotional centers of the brain through music can be an effective way to improve the emotional well-being and quality of life of people with dementia.
The motor areas are responsible for the control of movement and are primarily located in the frontal lobes and the cerebellum. These regions of the brain work together to coordinate and execute movements, including walking, reaching, and grasping.
Music can activate the motor areas of the brain by providing a rhythmic beat and a structured tempo that can help to improve movement and coordination. Music therapy often involves activities that encourage movement, such as dancing or playing percussion instruments, which can be particularly beneficial for people with dementia who may have difficulty with movement and balance.
Research has shown that music therapy can improve gait and balance in people with dementia by providing a structured and predictable rhythm that can help to synchronize movement. This can lead to improvements in walking speed, stride length, and overall balance.
In addition to physical benefits, when dementia patients engage in movement with music therapy, it also gives them cognitive and emotional benefits. For example, dancing or playing percussion instruments can help to improve mood and promote social interaction.
The language is controlled by the left hemisphere. It is responsible for the production of speech and comprehension of language.
Music can activate the language centers of the brain by providing a structured and predictable auditory input that can help to improve speech production and comprehension.
Singing, in particular, is beneficial for people with dementia, as it engages both the language centers and the emotional centers of the brain.
Research has shown that singing can improve speech production in people with dementia by enhancing breath control and vocal quality. Singing can also improve comprehension of language by providing a structured and predictable auditory input that can help to overcome language processing difficulties.
Music therapy for Aphasia or severe dementia often involves using singing to improve communication. For example, singing familiar songs with repetitive phrases can help people with dementia to participate in group singing and engage in social interaction.
Singing can also be used to facilitate communication with caregivers and family members, by providing a structured and predictable way to express emotions and needs.
The memory centers of the brain include the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. These regions of the brain work together to encode, store, and retrieve memories.
Music can activate the memory centers of the brain by evoking emotions associated with past experiences, which can help people with dementia to recall memories and experiences.
Listening to music from their youth or songs that they have fond memories of can be particularly beneficial for people with dementia, as it can help them to recall past experiences and emotions associated with those experiences.
Research has shown that music can improve memory in people with aphasia by enhancing cognitive processing, attention, and mood.
For example, playing familiar music can help people with dementia to recall past experiences and reduce feelings of confusion and disorientation.
Music therapy often involves using music to facilitate reminiscence and life review in people with dementia. For example, listening to music from different periods in a person’s life can help to evoke memories and stimulate conversation about past experiences.
Playing familiar music can also help to promote engagement and social interaction, which can improve overall cognitive function and well-being.
Types of Music Therapy Techniques For Dementia and Aphasia
Music therapy is a non-pharmacological intervention that uses music to promote emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being in people with dementia.
Several types of music therapy techniques can be used to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, including individual and group therapy techniques.
Individual Therapy Techniques for Dementia
Singing is a popular individual therapy technique used in music therapy for dementia. It involves singing familiar songs or learning new songs with the guidance of a music therapist. Singing can help to improve respiratory function, enhance mood, and improve speech production in people with dementia.
Playing Musical Instruments
Playing musical instruments is another individual therapy technique used in music therapy for dementia. It involves playing simple musical instruments, such as drums or percussion instruments, to engage the motor areas of the brain and improve coordination and movement. Playing musical instruments can also promote cognitive function, social interaction, and emotional expression.
Music reminiscence involves listening to familiar music from a person’s past and reminiscing about past experiences and memories associated with that music. This individual therapy technique can help to improve mood, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and promote social interaction and engagement.
- Group Therapy Techniques for Dementia
- Cultural Songs Reminiscence
Cultural song reminiscence involves listening to and singing familiar songs from a person’s culture or ethnicity. This group therapy technique can promote social interaction and engagement and can help to improve mood, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and promote cultural identity.
- Famous Folk Music Active Participation:
Famous folk music active participation involves listening to and participating in familiar folk songs, such as nursery rhymes or traditional songs. This group therapy technique can help to improve cognitive function, memory recall, and social interaction, and can promote emotional expression and engagement.
Music therapy is a beneficial intervention for people with dementia, and various individual and group therapy techniques can be used to improve emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being.
These techniques can be tailored to meet the needs and preferences of each individual and can be used to enhance the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Tips for Caregivers & Family Members of Dementia Patients
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, and it can be difficult to know how best to support them.
Here are some tips for caregivers and family members of dementia patients:
- Educate Yourself: Learn as much as you can about dementia, its symptoms, and its progression. This will help you to understand what your loved one is going through, and how best to support them.
- Create a Routine: Establishing a daily routine can help to reduce anxiety and confusion for people with dementia. Make sure to incorporate activities that your loved one enjoys, such as listening to music or going for a walk.
- Be Patient: People with dementia may struggle to communicate or complete tasks that were once easy for them. Be patient and provide gentle guidance and reassurance.
- Stay Connected: Dementia can be isolating for both the patient and their caregiver. Make sure to stay connected with friends and family, and seek out support groups or other resources to help you cope.
- Encourage Independence: People with dementia may feel a loss of control over their lives. Encouraging independence, such as allowing them to dress themselves or participate in household chores, can help to boost their self-esteem and maintain a sense of purpose.
- Use Music: Music can be a powerful tool in engaging people with dementia and improving their overall well-being. Play familiar music or participate in music therapy sessions to promote emotional expression and social interaction.
- Take Care of Yourself: Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining. Make sure to take breaks, practice self-care, and seek out support when needed.
By establishing a routine, staying connected, and using music and other interventions, caregivers and family members can help to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and support their well-being.
Dementia Care Units Providing Music Therapy in the US
Many dementia care units in the United States provide music therapy as a part of their care programs. We have listed them below for your reference.
The Hearth is a senior living community in New York that offers a Memory Care program for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music therapy is a core component of their program, and they offer individual and group therapy sessions to promote emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being.
Silverado Memory Care is a network of senior living communities in several states across the US, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Texas, and Utah. They offer a Music & Memory program, which provides personalized playlists to residents with dementia to help them reconnect with memories and emotions.
Brookdale Senior Living is one of the largest senior living providers in the US, with over 700 communities across the country. They offer various memory care programs, including the Clare Bridge program, which incorporates music therapy to promote cognitive function and emotional well-being.
The Cedars is a retirement community in Maine that offers a comprehensive dementia care program, including music therapy. They offer individual and group sessions, as well as music performances and sing-alongs to promote social interaction and engagement.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a non-profit organization that offers resources and support for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as their caregivers. They offer a Music & Memory program that provides personalized playlists to people with dementia to promote emotional expression and memory recall.
By clicking on the respective links of the websites of these institutions, you can find nearby centers. In summary, there are many dementia care units and senior living communities in the US that provide music therapy as a part of their care programs.
Best Music Therapy Apps
We have listed the best Music Therapy Applications that you can use to balance and manage your mental health issues.
The WellHeal App is designed after combining two effective methods of psychotherapy: CBT and Music Therapy. A proven solution to physically, mentally, and psychologically stabilize your life. An App focused on Your Healing, Wellness & Mindfulness.
#1 Therapeutic Experience to help individuals address Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, and Social needs. An effort to transcend the compulsive cycles of life and define an ultimate process to attain mental freedom and liberation.
Uncover your True Potential and Enhance your Productivity. Find and Fix the Unresolved Emotions that hinder your Health.
Humm.ly is a wellness app that combines music therapy and mindfulness techniques. Immerse yourself in a customizable listening experience that brings technology and music together to create a powerful tool for your wellness.
It is an accessible and effective tool based on the science of music therapy with customized technologies designed for long-lasting positive impacts on the mind, body, and soul.
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