There has been much in the news lately about the benefits of music and art as therapy for people with Alzheimer's Disease. I've written here many times of my direct experience singing for and with those with AD and music's seemingly miraculous ability to "awaken" and enliven the listeners. It doesn't always work, of course, nor do the same people react the same way to the same program on different days. However, the effect is real and what's more, it has excellent benefits for caregivers, too.
Here is an link to an article on the subject appearing in the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease e-newsletter:
With the widespread use of iPods and smartphones, and streaming capabilities, the technology is already in the hands of many people to take advantage of having personalized music available for use by the caregiver, the one receiving care, as well as both sharing the experience of enjoying the music together. The documentary, Alive Inside, brings home the power of using personalized music with nursing home residents, whose time is typically 90% idle outside of normal daily living activities. According to a recent article in the AARP Bulletin, titled "The Healing Power of Music", there are as many therapeutic (and fun!) uses of music as there are seniors and caregivers to enjoy it! New research shows that music can improve the mood of those with neurological impairment, but it also improves cognitive skills and can reduce the need for anti-psychotic drugs. In addition to helping those in facilities, another main point of connection and intimate sharing can be achieved through caregiver and receiver listening to favorite music together. For spouses, in which one is memory-impaired, music can be a wonderful source of good feelings, when cognitive loss prevents the sharing of memories in other ways. Speaking from personal experience as a daughter/caregiver, I know how deeply meaningful it was to see the spark of joy and recognition in my mother's eyes as we listened to her favorite music together.
Although I personally believe the power of music is best demonstrated through live performance, with human contact, eye contact and smiles thrown in for good measure, there are limits to bringing live performance into facilities or into private homes for that matter (and there are only so many hours a live singer can perform!) So, using the very personalized music that brings good memories to an individual via an mp3 player, such as an iPod, is a wonderful, resilient, untiring good substitute to help fill the empty 90% of time spent idle.
And, as a great side benefit, caregivers can use the device to explore using relaxation, stress-reduction and visualization/meditation tracks or streamed music to help them cope with the daily challenges and stress that caregiving almost always entails. Music is indeed a powerful healing force!
And I was excited to hear of a new concept for a choir, formed in Minnesota, which brings those with early Alzheimer's or cognitive impairment and their care partners together to sing. The project, called Giving Voice Chorus, brings the joy of singing, social interaction, a sense of purpose and accomplishment and just plain fun together for participants. What a fabulous idea! Here's a short video presentation by the founders:
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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