Music is used as a means of expression, whether as a cultural reference or an emotional outlet. This is particularly helpful to those with more progressive memory diseases such as dementia, which affects memory recall and decision-making and thinking.
Music stimulates cognitive function, which has an effect on memory recall. Music also helps people form close social connections and can be a helpful tool for caregivers, family and friends to form closer bonds with those in memory care. While music might not eradicate the need for pharmaceutical intervention, it's considered a powerful supplementary therapy for those in memory care. There are several benefits to combining music in a memory care program.
The brain has different ways of remembering different applications in our lives. For instance, it uses explicit memory (EM) for events, knowledge and reasoning. In diseases such as dementia, that part of the brain experiences the most damage. Another type of memory the brain uses is procedural memory (PM), which includes a lot of activity-based events, such as dancing and listening to music. For some with severe memory loss, the ability to play a musical instrument remains intact. Studies show that those who actively pursue a musical instrument and continue practicing it slow down further cognitive decline.
Music has the ability to bring people together from all walks of life, regardless of their musical ability or mental cognition. Group music sessions that include residents in memory care settings include basic musical practice, such as drum circles and singing, which doesn't require much skill but allows everyone to engage. It can also promote dancing, which has the twofold benefit of physical activity and social connection.
These fun sessions promote social interaction, fostering friendship and community, which are both important for cognitive stimulation. Music can also bridge communication barriers for those who've lost the ability to verbally communicate.
Memory diseases such as Alzheimer's or dementia can cause anxiety. However, studies have shown that there are areas in the brain left untouched by the ravages of Alzheimer's. The salience network is an area of the brain that has an emotional response to music. Playing music that has meaning to the listener, such as a personalized playlist, can activate this salience network, reducing anxiety and stress in memory care residents.
Music is also known as one of the most effective non-pharmacological ways to treat behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. These can include playing an instrument, songwriting, singing and listening to music.
Dementia might not be a direct cause of pain; however, between 50% and 80% of those with dementia experience pain every day. The higher the progression of the disease, the more likely the resident will experience pain. Chronic pain is also associated with mental decline, such as in those who have Alzheimer's. The link between the disease and pain is due to the neurological misfiring of signals that can cause pain receptors to become hypersensitive.
Studies show that distraction can be an effective pain management tool for those who easily become absorbed in cognitive tasks such as listening or participating in music. Some of the ways used to measure the effect music had on pain were pain intensity, vital signs of the participant, emotional distress from pain and analgesic intake. The studies concluded that music significantly reduced pain.
Cheerful music is known for its ability to raise a sagging spirit and may even help lift the mood of those with depression for a short while. When you create music or listen to it, the body sends more blood to the limbic system, which houses our emotions. When we listen to music that we recognize and that brings back happy memories, this region is triggered and the brain releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone.
Music is known as the language of emotions. Even those who've sustained severe brain trauma still retain the ability to appreciate the emotion present in music, even if they have no expressive or recognition abilities.
There are many factors that contribute to quality of life, such as environment and financial stability. Residents of memory care communities may also experience additional factors, such as health and mental well-being. When these aren't taken care of, the overall quality of life may diminish, which can lead to anxious and depressive states.
Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is a measure of a person's overall mental and physical well-being over a period of time. Studies show that music has a positive effect on a person's mental HRQOL.
A study shows that those with dementia who are in institutional care and receive at least five music therapy sessions may experience an improvement in depressive episodes and an overall increase in the quality of life.
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