The Healing Power Of Music


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I read this article in the AARP Bulletin and of course I thought of my Mom, who has Dementia.

This form of therapy of course is of benefit to both Dementia and Alzheimer patients.

New research is confirming and expanding an idea long held by those who work with dementia patients that music can not only improve the mood of people with neurological diseases it can boost cognitive skills and reduce the need for antipsychotic drugs.
Music therapists who work with Alzheimer patients describe seeing patients “Wake up” when the sounds of loved and familiar music fill their heads.

They have found that some patients after years of not speaking, they begin to talk again and become more social. Often they actually remember who they are which is one of the things they seem to be unable to do as the Alzheimers worsens. The video below is a great example of that.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a book called Musicophilia which explains that for Alzheimers patients music can be like medicine. He says that “Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and it can have power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves and to others for at least a while”.

While this is not a cure it becomes a road to communication between family and the loved one that has this heartbreaking disease. According to estimates One in 8 Boomers will get this disease.  Most of us will know someone who will be affected by this and if music will ease the pain of watching your loved one become a vegetable and maybe even spark some sign of life in their brain, it would be worth getting a headset and an iPod full of their favorite music for them.

A Music therapist Connie Tomaino  told the story in this article how she walked into a room of totally overmedicated, catatonic patients guitar in hand and started to sing “Let me call you Sweetheart”. Many of the patients considered to be catatonic lifted their heads and looked at her, the ones that were agitated calmed down and many of them sang the words to the song. Now this is bringing tears to my eyes as I know exactly what she is talking about. These songs can trigger an association with family members bring back memories. Some who have not spoken in years say things like “I have to get home cause the kids are coming”.

There is another story about how music was used in the afternoons when what is called “sundowning” when patients get anxious and angry to calm them down. Music like Diana Krall’s “I get along without you very well”.

I personally know how heart breaking this is. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my Mom who for me is alone in a place she is unfamilar and me being so far away. 

I do not want to be in this place as I get older so one hopes there is some solution to this. At 95 my Mom has had a great life and now it is over it is hard for me to accept and for her to live it. She only wants her life to end and on that note I wish I could help.

If you go to AARP.ORG/Mobile you can download the iPad app that has a mountain of information.

This video is a fine example of what happens to the brain when music is played to a patient whose love of music is evident in his former life and he is now struck with the heartbreaking illness of Alzheimers

Books of interest on the subject

Measure Of The Heart

A Life Stolen

Measure Of The Heart

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