Judging from new research, singing and listening to favorite songs may improve the quality of life, executive function, orientation, and overall happiness of people with dementia.

Singing and listening to music helps alleviate symptoms of depression

A study recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland, suggests that mood and memory in people with dementia improve greatly when their day-to-day lives include listening to music and singing.

“Given the increasing global prevalence and burden of dementia and the limited resources in public health care for persons with dementia and their family caregivers, it is important to find alternative ways to maintain and stimulate cognitive, emotional, and social well-being in this population. Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation. Especially stimulating and engaging activities, such as singing, seem to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia.”-Dr. Teppo Sarkamo, study author and lead researcher

People with mild dementia experienced improvement in depression symptoms after singing and listening to music on a regular basis. It’s notable that the subject’s personal musical background was irrelevant to the positive results of this study. Singing was beneficial for their executive function, orientation, and working memory. For people with more advanced dementia, listening to music offered cognitive benefits, as well.

Singing improves quality of life for patients with dementia

“Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and it can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.” – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, Neurologist

As we become aware of the benefits of singing and listening to music, these people are conducting important work on the subject, and furthering the cause.

  • The Giving Voice Chorus at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis offers participants a welcomed break from the day-to-day frustration that dementia can bring. Patients and caregivers gather regularly to enjoy each other’s company, sing, celebrate, and connect.
  • In Wisconsin, sixty percent of the care facilities use personalized playlists as an important part of the care routine for patients with dementia. The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Association credits the use of music for their #4 ranking for the lowest use of psychotropic drugs in nursing homes in the United States.
  • Personalized playlists that include a patient’s favorite music help improve their mood. “Alive Inside” director Michael Rossato-Bennet says that 75% of the patients he spoke with and filmed during his documentary creation showed a great deal of improvement in their symptoms after listening to their favorite music.

Personalized music and mood study planned to determine how best to aid patients with dementia using music

A group of scientist led by Catherine Tompkins at George Mason University in Virginia received a grant last September that allows them to expand their study of music and mood in dementia patients to include residents of five Fairfax county adult day centers. Several undergraduate Sociology students are involved in the research as assistants, and will interview the patients’ families to find out which kinds of music they most enjoy. During the six-week study, each subject will listen to a personalized playlist on an iPod. After the six-week test period, the researchers will give the iPods to the patients as gifts in the hopes that they will continue to use them.

The participating care facilities are non-profit Music & Memory Certified Care Organizations. With a mission that includes introducing the advantages of listening to music, this important organization offers nursing staff, family members, and elder-care professionals at care facilities a means by which to make digital music more accessible to people suffering with dementia.

To learn more about music and how it positively affects patients with dementia, check out the documentary Alive Inside, visit the Giving Voice Chorus website, and contact  Sevens Home Care at (303) 470-1921 or visit our website www.SevensHomeCare.com.