Earlier this month, I was looking through my Twitter feed and came across this post:

While we wait on a cure and preventative for dementia, we need to find ways to modify the impact of the disease process. Here are some ideas generated by those on Twitter in response to the question “What can we do now to alter the impact of dementia?”:

  • Named supporter for person & #carers,
  • Community networks,
  • Dementia friendly everything,
  • Nutrition,
  • Keep people out of hospital
  • Provide as much stimulation as possible, keep person active,
  • Raise awareness, get people talking about #dementia,
  • Encourage regular checks
  • Plenty of music and dancing as for some people, even cultures music & dance adds to life and events
  • Addressing #stigma would help
  • Hydration hugely important. Confusion increases if dehydrated >> vicious circle #dementiachallengers

Thank you to Gill Phillips (@WhoseShoes) and Gele Tea (@gele_tea)  for these responses.

So how do I as a music therapist alter the impact of dementia in those I serve?

I realize that nothing with or in music can prevent or stop the disease process. Yet, if I am present with those in the group, making use of where they are in the moment and am responsive to them in that emotion/experience/moment, the impact is perceived as less in the moment by the individual.

And, it is not something that works for everyone who has a dementia diagnosis. There isn’t an across the board playlist that changes the level of responsiveness and emotions of ever 80 year old with a dementia diagnosis,

Music therapy sessions are so much more than listening to music. It is taking the interests and the abilities of those present and moving with them towards a desired outcome.  A few examples are:

  • creating opportunities within a musical context for them to interact with a peer, a staff member, or a family member;
  • reminiscing related to music from their past or experiences related to the music;
  • creating something new – a song, a drum beat, a sound;
  • provoking vocalizations or physical movements;
  • allowing them to be in control by selecting the next song or starting/stopping the group.

Does music therapy make a difference?

I believe it does. Research is supporting this. Often for me, it is validated by staff comments. This video shares anecdotal reports by floor staff following music therapy sessions on a secure dementia unit.

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