Music and Dementia: A Perfect Match?

With half of all women predicted to develop dementia, are we doing enough to improve the lives of those living with this degenerative disease? Music and dementia may seem an unlikely combination, but it can have a dramatic effect.

A dementia diagnosis can be a scary thing. With limited options for those who require care, what can innovative research do for sufferers? With new research emerging from the Netherlands indicating that almost half of women and a third of men will develop dementia in their lifetimes, are we really doing enough to improve quality of life and maximise wellbeing?

It has long been suspected that music can rouse old memories and has the power to bring people together. But the ability of music to enhance quality of life, is something that only beginning to be studied in earnest.

The National Institutes of Health, in conjunction with the Kennedy Centre, have launched an initiative to examine the link between music and health to a greater degree. Georgetown Lombardi hospital in America, already holds music therapy sessions for patients. Whilst the anecdotal evidence for the positive effects of music as a therapy are building up, the aim is to start to build solid scientific research to enable people to make the right decisions about music and care.

When it comes specifically to dementia care, evidence already exists to suggest the serious positive benefits of incorporating music into the lives, and care, of dementia sufferers. Peter Edwards, from Singing for the Brain, Alzheimer’s Society, describes the effects of the choir sessions held in Croydon as ‘seeing people come back to life’. Music and dementia really do seem to be good partners.

But with such visible effects on wellbeing, why is it that only 5% of care homes currently have a ‘good quality’ music programme? Why are music and dementia not paired more often? Research shows that just listening to music, not even participating, can have a great positive impact. If it’s as simple as popping on a song, why isn’t there already greater provision for music in care homes?

In September, the International Longevity Centre delivered a report to the House of Lords suggesting that more needs to be done in order to provide better music provision and a national framework for its’ delivery needs to be established.

But what will this mean in terms of practical delivery for carers? Suggestions range from choirs to music making sessions, to live performances by a pianist or violinist for example, all the way to simply putting a CD on, or singing with family or friends. When something so simple as music can so significantly enhance the lives of dementia sufferers, what’s holding us back from implementing positive change?

If you’d like to learn more, then why not take a look at our Dementia course.

Sophie Griffith

Sophie Griffith

After joining us as a graduate Sophie now runs our digital marketing campaigns. Sophie also manages the Infonetica blog, selecting content and keeping an eye on current affairs. She enjoys keeping active and loves a game of badminton.