Using Music to Spark Memories in People with Dementia
June 27, 2017
Finding an activity that prompts a sense of alertness and a “return to themselves” can be priceless for families and caregivers. One possibility that researchers are optimistic about is the use of music – especially familiar, beloved songs – to reawaken memories in those with dementia and other neurological problems. Enter LifeSongs, an innovative product developed by memory care professional Suzanne Lyon. Using personalized music, photos, and other sensory triggers, LifeSongs provides a unique way to capture memories and keep them at hand even for those experiencing cognitive decline.
LifeSongs, Music, and Memory
At its most basic level, LifeSongs is a memory book that can help seniors and families build a collection of treasured memories to enjoy together. It is far more than simply a scrapbook, though. Harnessing the unique power of music to act as a bridge to the past and a connection to the present, LifeSongs makes it possible to embed voice and music recordings into each of its 12 pages. Along with your collages of photos and mementos, you can personalize a soundtrack that evokes pleasant emotions and cherished memories.
For those with dementia, these memories can bring back a sense of identity and self, helping them connect with important moments in their lives as well as reconnecting them with the present. It can promote a calming mood, reduce stress and may even help them communicate more effectively.
The Science Behind LifeSongs
Music therapy is a growing field of study, and while much of the evidence so far is anecdotal, researchers generally agree that music does trigger memories, sometimes very powerfully. The non-profit Music and Memory, which promotes the use of music therapy for health, did a survey of 26 nursing homes and discovered that the use of personalized music using iPods decreases problem behaviors and reduces dementia symptoms like anxiety, agitation, sundowning and depression.
“People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can respond to music when nothing else reaches them,” said the notable neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2007 book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
“Even in people with advanced dementia, music can often reawaken personal memories and associations that are otherwise lost.”
There are some potential limitations to the use of music as therapy, of course. Suzanne Hanser, PhD, department chair of music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston and former program director of San Francisco’s Alzheimer’s Association, says: “To be most effective, music therapy procedures must be tailored to the individual needs of each person with dementia.” With its recordable pages, LifeSongs enables families to do just that, whether your loved one is moved by Mozart or enlivened by Elvis.
To find out more about LifeSongs and how you can use it for Alzheimer’s care, visit the LifeSongs website, where you can buy your copy through a special offer from A Place for Mom.