Have you had the experience of busting out – word-for-word – to sing along with a song you haven't heard in 20 years. Music memory is processed across many parts of the brain and is preserved better than language memory.
Established in 1950, music therapy has been designed to assist physical and emotional health through the use of music: listening, song writing, performing, and many other activities involving music. It makes sense that music might be effective to assist memory function for those with diseases like Alzheimers or dementia.
Memory loss is retrograde. Memories are lost in the opposite order they are acquired. The earliest things we learned are the last to go. An emerging field, music already has benefits for stress management. It may have potential for memory support for those with chronic disease.
Simple activities like singing and moving to music decreases wandering and disruptive behaviors among people with Alzheimer’s at nursing facilities. Without being a professional therapist, is there a way you might enhance the experiences of an elderly friend or relative with music?
If you are able to do the research in your parent’s history, find out about favorite songs, the songs sung at bedtime when they were young or the hit songs they danced to in their teenage years. Play and sing along together. Dance if you are able. Clap or tap in rhythm.
We know that music is able to help relax a person physically and psychologically, and it can even relieve pain. Music can also create emotional intimacy. The potential here for moments you can share in new and deeper ways may be high.
Imagine bopping to the oldies with your parent or elderly relative? You may just awaken parts of their joy experience that have been dormant for many years.
If your parent or relative can dance, share it with exhilaration. Do daily tasks to music. This is a great way to be in motion and avoid the health problems of sitting all day. Even the simplest movements can be set to music with a familiar song.
Music has the power to trigger muscle memory of dance steps or tasks formerly done with a particular tune. Dig into the music library of those old songs and find ones that can not only bring back the happy times but also can help with current daily tasks. Make it the fun daily activity for you to do together.
Jaleh Neshat is the owner of “Homecare Assistance Raleigh NC” which provides senior care for families in the Raleigh, NC area. Their “Balanced Care Method TM” caregivers provide emotional, social, nutritional, and physical care.