*story from Resonance Employee Beth Pirolli**

Music is used frequently in medical situations to restore or maintain one’s health (either mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual). The use of music in cases such as these is called music therapy.

My older sister, a speech pathologist, briefly worked with a group of patients, all of whom had dementia. She told me of one woman who would never speak to her or her colleagues, and if she did try to communicate with them or speak at all, it was in song. My sister said that she had this one song she would sing all of the time that didn’t have words. I found this so fascinating; that a woman whose brain activity is slowly diminishing only communicates with others through music. I was curious to find out why this is. Music can actually play an important role in the treatment of those with dementia, and particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory and Emotion – People associate music with important events in their lives or with particular emotions, which is hearing a certain song may remind you of a specific time or event in your life. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, using music to evoke these memories from earlier in their lives can be a crucial part in keeping them connected to their past and to their memories. Familiar tunes, such as songs from the patient’s childhood or from when they were ages 18-25, work best to stimulate patient’s memory. Evoking memories using music can also help patients become more emotionally in touch with themselves and each other.

“A person’s ability to engage in music…remains intact late into the disease process because these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.” It would appear that the singing lady from my sister’s “dementia group” could continue to communicate in song when she could no longer communicate with language because the “well-rehearsed responses” that make up music making (rhythm, singing, familiar melodies), do not take as much brain power as something such as language does.

 

There are many other wonderful effects that music can have on people with with this awful disease. Read about them here:

https://www.alzfdn.org/EducationandCare/musictherapy.html

http://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/news/story1.shtml.