For people living with dementia, music therapy can be a powerful tool for alleviating many of the negative symptoms associated with the disease.

That’s why memory care communities in Florida are using everything from group singalongs to drum lessons to help residents feel more empowered, less stressed and better connected to their friends and family.

Every day, scientists are discovering new ways music therapy can help people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s enjoy the highest quality of life. Here are three of the most fascinating insights we know — so far.

#1 – Music Improves Cognitive Function

In a recent article in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, researchers were able to prove that the areas of the brain associated with musical memory — including the motor cortices and orbitofrontal cortex — are the last areas to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. This may explain why singing favorite songs can help improve one’s scores on cognition tests, according to a recent article in The Guardian. Other articles in publications like The Gerontologist and Perceptual and Motor Skills have shown that singing and playing instruments is linked to significant improvements in fact recall and autobiographical memory in people living with dementia.Even just listening to music can have a dramatic impact on the brain’s ability to process information. A study published by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation showed that listening to music for just 12 minutes a day for three months can improve one’s executive cognitive functions.

#2 – Music Makes Us Happy

Dementia doesn’t just affect one’s memory and cognition test scores, it can also cause a host of emotional symptoms, including agitation, anxiety and depression.These emotional symptoms are the root cause of many negative behaviors associated with dementia. According to a study in Frontiers in Psychology, anxiety and agitation can make one more prone to wandering, aggression and self-destruction. These behaviors can limit the possibilities for positive social interactions and are a leading reason that people with dementia are hospitalized.

Dutch researchers went as far as saying music therapy is the most effective tool for easing depression in people living with dementia.

It can also reduce the level of stress hormones found in the blood, according to a study in the PLOS One peer-reviewed scientific journal. Another study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing showed that music therapy made grooming activities less stressful for all involved and reduced instances of aggression.

#3 – Music Reduces Dependence on Medication 

With all that music therapy can do to improve the mental and emotional states of people living with dementia, it’s perhaps no surprise that it offers an additional side effect: reduced reliance on medications. Another report published by Brown University showed that after six months of individualized music therapy, people with dementia needed less antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs compared to those who didn’t participate in the treatment.

At Sonata Senior Living, our Florida memory care teams are always tracking the latest developments in Alzheimer’s and music research. To learn more about our innovative music therapy programs, schedule a visit →

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