Written by Active Minds on Friday the 21st of April 2017.
The impact that music has on our day-to-day life is huge; an upbeat song on a day when we are feeling low can almost instantly lift our mood, or a piece of music from our wedding day can send us hurtling back to that exact moment and all the joyous memories it entails. And it is for this reason, that music is an integral tool to helping those who are living with dementia feel secure, happy and relaxed, as well as helping to exercise the brain.
So, what exactly are the benefits of music?
Taking part in a singing lesson exercises the brain; singing activates the left side of the brain, whilst listening to music triggers activity in the right, and at the same time the visual areas of the brain are being stimulated by watching the class. Organisations like Singing For The Brain, have created singing classes for people living with dementia, in order to take full advantage of these benefits in the fight against dementia.
The power that music has to trigger memories is incredibly beneficial for people living with dementia as it encourages conversation and elicits feelings of happiness and joy as they listen to the music and reminisce. When we learn music, we store the information in our ‘procedural memory’ (associated with repetition and routines). Dementia primarily destroys our ‘episodic memory’ (specific events in our lives) leaving our ‘procedural memory’ intact, thus the memory of music remains. By triggering these areas, the brain is stimulated and exercised.
As dementia progresses, people can often lose the ability to share emotions, physically however, they may still be capable. Being able to dance to music is a wonderful way for a person living with dementia to illustrate the emotions they are no longer able to vocalise. They are able to hug, kiss and touch, helping them feel connected and secure with their dance partner. In turn, this helps a person living with dementia to feel happy and relaxed, which is incredibly beneficial in the treatment of dementia.