8 ways music therapy can help people with dementia

Melanie Burton is a music therapist working with people with dementia. She began working as a carer and after ten years retrained as a music therapist. This vast and rich experience has helped her to adapt to each client to help them interact in a way that is meaningful to each person. Music therapy is an intervention that focuses on the responses of the clients, the therapist is able to adapt her music to accompany each client in the moment to allow for individuality within a group setting. In this way each person can feel heard and responded to in music. Group music making reduces isolation and creates community feelings.

Here are Melanie’s 8 ways music therapy can help people with dementia:

1. The Sound of Silence

Hearing is usually the last sense to go so you may connect through music until the last day.

2. ‘I gotta get myself connected’

Making music activates several areas of the brain so areas that are damaged can be bypassed and new connections created.

3. My Chemical Romance?

Group singing enhances feelings of being part of a group. When we sing together our hearts begin to beat in sync and we release chemicals known to improve social cohesion and raise mood.

4. ‘It’s not what you say – it’s the way that you say it’

90% of communication is nonverbal. People with dementia are often frustrated by a disruption in word finding, so non-verbal therapies such as music therapy can offer a stress-free way to interact.

5. ‘But if you sing, sing, sing, sing’

Some people with dementia experience changes in personality that are not always socially acceptable, interacting in groups through singing offers the opportunity for group bonding experiences in an appropriate setting.

6. ‘I remember when, I remember when I close my eyes’

Music seems to attach itself to memories, so the person with dementia may be able to talk about how her Mum/Granny/Auntie used to sing a song with them.

7. ‘The drugs don’t work, they just make you worse’

People with dementia are often prescribed medication to reduce aggressive behaviour, I have noticed that clients receiving music therapy are given less medication.

8. ‘Memories are made of these’

Whilst people with dementia are thought to be unable to learn new things once a diagnosis of dementia is given I have found that people are still able to learn new songs!

What do you think of this list – do you agree? Is there something missing? Let us know in the comments below.

Melanie Burton
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Melanie Burton

Musical Therapist at Melanie Burton Music Therapy
@MusicTherapyMel is a Music therapist working with people with #Dementia #Autism #Mental health and more.She has a passion for using the arts to communicate.
Melanie Burton
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