Dementia, a horrific disease, can be fought with music
The idea music can fight dementia and help improve memory and cognitive function is heart-warming, and very real. There is plenty of research and documentation over the last 5/6 years that shows music can really help bring dementia sufferers out of their shell.
The renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, in his book “Musicophilla” wrote that for Alzheimer’s patients, “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.”
Dementia in the US
Dementia has no cure. Some treatments can manage the disease, but it has a high mortality rate. In 2015, conservative estimates showed that about one in eight baby boomers will get some form of dementia.
The current number of people who have dementia in the United States is somewhere between 5.4 and 5.5 million, depending on which study you read. Of those 5.4/5.5 million, around 200,000 are under the age of 65.
For those people with younger-onset—or early-onset—they have a higher chance of living much longer than those diagnosed later in life because they’ll be able to manage it before it becomes too debilitating.
Music and dementia: what you should know
Researchers have determined that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can recall memories and emotions as well as have an enhanced mental performance after listening to, and singing, music.
Researchers believe music boosts brain activity, improves memory and makes people more active. Here are some of the reasons why:
Music can evoke emotions, and these emotions can trigger memories.
To quote Dr Sacks again, music can bring “back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” In a 2014 documentary “Alive Inside”, a social worker by the name of Dan Cohen demonstrated music’s ability to combat memory loss. The results are amazing, watch here to see how positively music can affect an Alzheimer’s patient.
Music is engaging
Specifically, it’s singing music that is engaging. When we sing, we engage more than just the part of the brain related to the act of singing.
What researchers have found is that singing activates the left side of our brain, while listening to music sparks activity in the right side—and watching others singing with you activates the visual areas of the brain.
Singing in a group helps to exercise more mind power than most people normally use in regular activities—this is just one of the reasons it’s so beneficial for dementia patients.
Music can be a positive mood changer and stress reliever
Music is a language, and it’s one that gets people moving, remembering and enjoying themselves. Music requires next to no mental processing, which means dementia suffers don’t require the cognitive function that’s been impaired by dementia to process and enjoy music.
For many dementia sufferers, music is freedom, and it’s a way they can express themselves that otherwise was lost.
For more information, we recommend visiting the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, who have an entire page dedicated to music therapy.