The answer is yes, according to numerous studies like this one recently published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry titled “Individualized Music Program is Associated with Improved Outcomes for U.S. Nursing Home Residents with Dementia.” Results of the study indicate that the Music &Memory individualized music program which was rolled out at 98 nursing homes, is associated with reductions in antipsychotic medication use, anxiolytic medication use, and BPSD (Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia) symptoms among long-stay nursing home residents with ADRD (Alzheimer's disease and related dementias).
It makes sense. Music is powerful. The right song can take us back in time to so many places like that first date, a special road trip, a marriage proposal, a high school dance or even a favorite concert. These memories generally don’t leave our brains, they are with us all the time just waiting for the right song to trigger them. In people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the area of the brain that holds our music memories is often preserved. In addition to memory responses, music can also help reduce anxiety, depression, stress and agitation.
If you’re a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, consider developing your own form of music therapy. It could not only help establish a better connection between you and your patient, it may reduce your own stress as well. Just keep in mind that your music taste is not what’s important. You’ll need to find out what music is going to appeal to your patient. Ask friends and family members and put together a playlist. Pay attention to your patient’s response to different songs at different times of the day. If they respond positively to a particular song, play it more often and take advantage of the opportunity to engage with your patient. If they respond negatively, avoid playing the song.
For more information regarding the benefits of music therapy for dementia patients, please visit musicandmemory.org, a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.