Using Music to Help Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease

Music can be a valuable tool to help you and your loved one cope with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies indicate that participating in musical activities may increase dopamine levels and increase cognitive function, which may mean that the disease will progress more slowly and your loved one’s mood will be enhanced.

As Alzheimer’s disease develops, normal functioning will eventually disappear, but musical aptitude and appreciation are one of the last traits to remain, even in the very latest stages of the disease. Few realize the significant number of benefits that music can have in improving the life and function of your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The following is a short list of ways that you can use music to help your loved one manage Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Music can increase mood

    Because music increases dopaminergic neurotransmission, it may decrease anxiety, depression, and encourage overall emotional adjustment. These effects may be found in virtually any patient, but they are particularly important for those with Alzheimer’s disease. This is because your loved one can grow frustrated with their declining abilities, which can also lead to depression. Music may help curb these feelings.

  2. Music can bring back memories

    Specific songs are often associated with events in your loved one’s life. For example, lullabies or family-specific songs often stick with your loved one throughout their life. Other examples may include wedding songs or specific songs from their young adult years.

  3. Music can bring loved ones closer together

    Music often encourages dancing, and dancing that includes touching can help your loved one show their emotions and affection. As the disease progresses, your loved one will likely have trouble expressing their affection, and music can help them overcome the internal barriers that prevent expressing emotion.

  4. Music can encourage specific activities

    Fast music will encourage movement while slow music will encourage relaxation and sleep. Use the fast music to move your loved one from one place when they are resistant. Use slow music to calm agitation.

Experiment with music in the early stages of dementia, if possible. Then, as the disease progresses, you will know which kinds of music are the most effective triggers for your loved one.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or how you can help your loved one using music during this difficult time, contact the Palm Beach Neurological Center by calling 888-369-1010.


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Thaut MH, Gardiner JC, Holmberg D, et al. Neurologic Music Therapy Improves Executive Function and Emtotional Adjustment in Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2009; 1169:406-416

Sutoo D & Akiyama K. Music improves dopaminergic neurotransmission: demonstration based on the effect of music on blood pressure regulation. Brain Research. 2004; 1016(2): 255-262. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2004.05.018

Maguire L., Wanschura P.B., Battaglia M.M., Howell .SN., Flinn J.M.  Active Singing Over A 4-Month Period Leads To Cognitive Improvements In A Group Of Patients With Dementia.  Accepted in J.Am. Gerontol Soc.


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