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Music Therapy and Memory Support

The Incredible Power of Music Therapy

When you think of music therapy, many thoughts may go through your mind. Possibly you envision people sitting around in a circle tapping on a tambourine and singing “Kumbaya”. Well, this is not entirely wrong or right. However, there is so much more to music therapy than a person tickling the ivory keys (playing piano). What many people do not know is that music therapy is a true healthcare discipline that provides an incredible variety of benefits. Especially, among those that face the daily challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, music therapy has true power to reestablish lost connections and improve one’s quality of life.

Music Therapy a True Healthcare Discipline

Music therapy isn’t listening to or making music for entertainment. It is a true and powerful healthcare discipline.

The The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “the clinical & evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapy interventions can address a variety of healthcare and educational goals.”

So what does all this mean? In short, there is strong evidence that music therapy promotes healing and boosts an individual’s quality of life.

Music Therapy Helps with Memory Support

Whether it’s singing songs of nostalgia to help soothe pain or strumming along with a guitar to encourage communication and connection to others, a music therapist has a variety of ways for bringing the powerful benefits out of music. Music can be used in ways that are purposeful and meaningful to the person. An individual sitting in their chair can move in rhythm, which is going to help activate a connection. People who have trouble finding the right words in conversation often find it easier to recall lyrics to a favorite song. Music is so versatile. For those facing the cognitive challenges of Alzheimer’s and dementia, it can be used to enhance both memory connection and quality of life in many aspects of their lives including during exercise, bathing, leisure activities, and mealtimes.

Understanding the Benefits of Music Therapy

Music Therapy and Mood

Listening to music can have a big impact on our emotions and mood. In fact, music can influence our brain to feel happy and relaxed. The secret lies in music’s ability to trigger the release of hormones that help stabilize one’s mood and reduce anxiety and depression.

Music can also evoke certain behaviors, creating a more positive mental state. It can provide a distraction. If a person is in physical or emotional pain, music can help to take his/her mind off it.

Music Therapy and Sleep

When it comes to sleep, music has great benefits. In the same way as influencing mood, music with soft lyrics and relaxing instrumentals can trigger the brain to release sleep hormones. These hormones help set the mood for a better deeper sleep.

Sleep not only helps the body recover, but it has a great impact on our memory processes, including old and new memory creation.

Music Therapy and Movement

Music encourages movement, as it evokes a physical response from the body. Individuals get involved in music by interacting with their hands, face, and body.

They may sing, hum, clap, and tap their feet to the beat. Some may get up and sway or dance to the music. This makes music an excellent form of therapy for improving motor functions especially among senior adults.

Music Therapy and Communication

Music could be said to be a universal language. It truly is an expression that can be found anywhere and everywhere . It offers a way for people to communicate feelings without needing to speak. Among those facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, music therapy can encourage communication and help individuals connect with friends and family.

Along with encouraging communication, music can boost social interaction and foster the development of social skills among groups. Social interaction is especially important among individuals with memory challenges. It helps to prevent isolation and depression. Two things that are all too common among those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Music Therapy and Memory

Short-term memory loss is often one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Many individuals that suffer memory loss are still able to recognize a song from their childhood or associate an important moment such as a wedding with a familiar tune. This is because music can unlock even re-ignite areas of the brain that house our memories.


Using Music to Help Someone with Memory Support Needs

1.) Work with a Trained Music Therapist

Not all memories connected to music are always pleasant. It’s important to seek the guidance of a licensed professional. A music therapist will work closely to create the best care plan and determine which types of music are meeting an individual’s needs.
A music therapist can help families determine:

  • What type of music to play so your loved one feels safe as opposed to triggering anxiety.
  • Which instruments are best suited for your loved one.
  • Where, when, and how to use music.
  • Whether your loved one would benefit from singing or other musical interventions.

2.) Making the Most of Music Yourself

Outside of working with a music therapist, you can also use the benefits of music on your own. Here are some helpful tips to help you use music to improve the quality of life of loved one/s dealing with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia:

Play music from your loved one’s teenage years or early 20s. Ask family or friends what music they listened to during this time in their lives. Music from this era helps encourage recall of long-term memory.

Consider your loved one’s history with music. This includes whether they ever played an instrument or had a favorite singer or genre of music they enjoyed. Create a playlist of their favorite songs.

Observe your loved one’s response. If they seem more engaged or content with a certain song, note the music type. If they seem anxious, that’s the type of music to avoid.

Use music to soothe. Music can be a source of calm.  Music is a way to redirect someone’s attention by giving them another focus when they are agitated or frustrated.

Use music as needed. Play music for your loved one and if they enjoy it, adopt music as a daily practice.  If you can’t be there every day, begin by playing music when your loved one seems distant or agitated. If their response is positive, include music as part of their routine.


Music Truly is Amazing 

From improving mood and increasing physical activity to strengthening communication and boosting memory, music therapy has so many incredible benefits for those facing the cognitive challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Working with a trained music therapist is extremely beneficial and advised. However, you can also use music to help your loved one on your own. The benefits of music therapy are truly amazing!


When it comes to providing memory support for senior adults, The Ohio Masonic Communities is your go to resource. With three locations in Springfield, Waterville, and Medina, OH, their senior living communities offer 24/7 individualized care and support for senior adults with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. If you and your loved one are interested in senior living, schedule a tour at one of the scenic and beautiful communities. Call (877) 881-1623 today to learn more about their memory support options.