Many Alzheimer’s caregivers in New York City see incredible results after musical therapy. Music has a way of reaching people on various emotional and intellectual levels, and of sparking connections in people’s psyches. It is never too late to try music therapy; it works even if people are in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
What music therapy does: Boosts mood, reduces stress, facilitates socialization, and improves cognition and movement.
How? The part of the brain that is involved in motor activity is stimulated. It does not need any cognitive processing (or needs very little).
Also, music is connected with many memories and emotions: for example, a song that played at a wedding. The intensity of hearing something like that, even after many years, can lead to more brain activity. However, people do react differently. A piece may be enjoyable to one person and sad to another. Keep an eye out for grimaces and signs of displeasure.
Tips: Try to find out the music the person with Alzheimer’s enjoyed when he was 18 to 25. Music from this period tends to evoke the strongest responses. If this is not possible, or even if it is, play music that is new to the person. It has no emotions connected with it and can be quite effective to help someone relax physically and go to sleep.
Late-stage dementia: Go back even earlier in a person’s life-childhood is ideal-for late-stage dementia. What music did a person enjoy? Did they have a favorite song? Alzheimer’s caregivers say that getting late-stage patients to sing, dance, clap in rhythm and other rhythmic or structured activities does wonders.
Stimulative versus sedative: Stimulative music has quick tempos and is percussive. It is great for leading to movements such as tapping toes and can help to wake someone up who has fallen asleep in a chair, bathtub or at a meal. Sedative music, on the other hand, makes a person quiet. It is good for bedtime and during times of upheaval.