Spotlight on music therapy in dementia care

Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer. But awareness and understanding remains low and many families are facing it alone. That’s why, during the Week, we want everyone to come together and take action. By uniting, we can raise awareness, offer help & understanding and improve care. You can find more information on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

To mark Dementia Awareness Week, Four Seasons Health Care is hosting four guest blogs from our team of dementia experts.

Our latest blog comes from Hannah Miller, Dementia Project Facilitator, on the benefits of music therapy in dementia:

Music in dementia care is a powerful and yet, greatly under used tool in care homes. During my time supporting people living with dementia in care homes, I have used music regularly to engage with residents, create meaningful, individualised activity and sooth anxiety and distress. I was fortunate to attend a workshop recently about music in dementia care and I am more driven than ever to find a way to ensure staff in care homes have an understanding of the benefits and open their minds to the possibility of using music in an intentional way when interacting with those they support.

We as carers have the ability to bring music and its benefits to our residents at our finger tips. We all have the tools to achieve this, our voices. So why are we not seeing care homes filled with songs, music being used in an individualised, intentional way to enhance the care we provide?

What is your favourite song? It’s hard to choose, isn’t it? Music is integral to most people’s lives, both consciously and subconsciously. Songs that take you back to the good old days, getting ready for that big night out, the day you met your first love, that song that Grandma used to sing when you were sad, songs you sang to your children, a football anthem, the one from that TV show, the list goes on and on. People living with dementia retain the ability to recognise, respond to, engage with and participate in singing and appreciating music they have enjoyed throughout their lives. Even for those people who appear unresponsive to the world around them, music can awaken memories and reopen avenues of communication previously thought to be lost.

Music supports people living with dementia’s psychological needs, increases alertness, engagement and interaction. It is proven to improve relationships with fellow residents and staff, communication, well-being, socialisation and movement. It has a strong role to play in reducing isolation, distress, anxiety and the use of pharmacological interventions for emotionally driven behaviours.

Can you start to use music more in your role? Think about how you could incorporate music into daily events, spontaneously and intentionally to improve the well-being of those you support. Find out what an individual’s favourite song is; use this song to greet them each time you interact with them. You don’t need to learn the whole song, a verse; a chorus is enough to begin with. Try using the person’s name within the song, personalise it and note the way the person responds - I would bet money it raises a smile! Think of a song that is just for you, something residents can identify you by. Use this song as you make your way around the home. People may be more likely to remember you if they can associate you with “your song”. It costs nothing to use music in this way and takes up no more time.

So let’s make the most of what a remarkable tool music is for those living in our homes and use it to enhance the quality of life of those we support. Let the Halls Be Alive With The Sound of Music!

Date published: 15 September 2017

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