Singing and Music May Reduce Dementia Symptoms

Grandfather and grandson sleep on sofaAccording to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, singing and listening to music may be able to reduce some symptoms of dementia.

Dementia—a group of degenerative brain symptoms rather than a single condition—is a global epidemic, with 7.7 million new cases each year. Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia, is the sixth-leading cause of death nationwide, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Managing Dementia with Music

To test the effects of music on symptoms of dementia, researchers recruited 89 pairs of participants with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers. Before and after the study, participants took assessments evaluating their memory, thinking skills, executive function, and ability to find their way around.

Researchers divided participants into three groups. One group received their usual care, while a second group received singing coaching. A third group listened to songs they already knew.

Nine months after the study, participants in the singing and music groups had improvements in navigational ability, cognitive skills, executive function, and memory. Among those younger than 80 with mild dementia, the results in the singing group were especially pronounced. For those with advanced dementia, listening to music provided the most benefits.

Depression symptoms dropped in both the group that sang and the group that listened to music. Those with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms had the greatest benefits.

Musical skill did not affect the results. Those who previously sang or played a musical instrument and those with no musical experience had similar outcomes.

A New Option for People with Dementia

Treating dementia can be costly and time-consuming, but the study’s authors say their research could offer new hope to people with dementia and their families. Musical activities, they suggest, could provide meaningful stimulation while helping to ease symptoms. For people newly diagnosed with dementia, the results are especially promising, as the best results were among those with early and mild symptoms.

References:

  1. Dementia: A growing epidemic. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mba-healthcare-management.com/dementia
  2. Latest Alzheimer’s facts and figures. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts
  3. Paddock, C., PhD. (2015, December 11). Singing and music benefit memory, emotional well-being in dementia. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303941.php

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  • Bernita

    Bernita

    December 23rd, 2015 at 4:14 PM

    My mother always loved to sing and play music and that love of music never abated even when she was in the worst days of her dementia. In a way it was the one thing that could continue to hold all of us together when we were all losing hope in her failing health and spirit.

  • Dawson

    Dawson

    December 25th, 2015 at 4:39 AM

    I am wondering if music and the brain share some of the same areas as those things where the patients saw improvements. That would only make some logical sense, that they share a common area of the brain and the music would then restimulate it.

  • debbie

    debbie

    December 26th, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    This could be a big help in some assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

  • Noelle

    Noelle

    December 26th, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    Since there are so many cases like this on the rise, and traditional medicine does not seem to be doing much to stop this rise in numbers, than I do think that now is the time to begin thinking outside of the box a bit more and developing alternative treatments and therapies. It might not be the cure that ultimately we are searching for but if it can help even just a few families that is more than we would be if we were sitting around and never having the courage to try anything new.

  • rupert

    rupert

    December 27th, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    This sounds so promising and I know that there are so many families who would love to find something that could help to ease the pain that they watch their family members with dementia struggle through/ It is heartbreaking to watch people who were once so so vital and full of life turn into someone completely different right before your eyes, so if this holds promise, I know that there are many who are holding out hope,.

  • Ethan P.

    Ethan P.

    December 27th, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    The Journal of music therapy has been doing similar research with similar findings for years now. Music therapists utilize and maximize the potential of music to aid those with needs such as patients with dementia. I work with many patients with dementia through Vitas hospice and see the benefits of music therapy daily. If you are interested in learning more, I highly suggest taking a look at the website I provided. Music therapy is a nationally recognized and board certified profession.

  • Ed

    Ed

    December 28th, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Sounds like this is a good cause that the entire music community should get behind and support.

  • stressmom

    stressmom

    December 29th, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    It would be so great if their were some schools or church groups that could partner with some of these facilities that house older patients and go out and do some musical community service with their homes. I know that it might not be much, but it could be so uplifting to provide music for these groups, and I think that everyone could get something awesome from that kind of experience.

  • Brea

    Brea

    December 30th, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    There is always a reason to keep good music in your life.

  • Rona

    Rona

    January 3rd, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    I have successfully used music with my husband through his moderate to now severe dementia stages. This was a profound caregiving tool that improved quality of life and calmed his agitation. Even now, when he is in permanent care, music results in brief moments of clarity and shared communication.

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