Music & Memory: The Power of Music

Posted on

Nov 08, 2018

Share This
Do you have a favorite song that you hum in your head?
Can you remember the song that was played at your wedding? What was one of your favorite songs growing up in high school? These are the first questions I pose to my clients; many of whom have suffered strokes, brain trauma, and have become confined by dementia. Music is a profoundly powerful tool- to the delight of loved ones the music playlists I create for clients help them remember specific memories from their past. Some advanced staged clients can even remember how to speak after careful and regular music sessions.

Neuroscientists have determined that in many types degenerative cognitive conditions the area of the brain responsible for musical memory is the last to atrophy. Alzheimer Disease, for example, can impair language to the point where simple conversations arent possible. Happy Birthday and the ABCs rhyme are songs we all know. I asked a recent client early on in our session to sing along to Happy Birthday. A man who could barely utter a word began singing the verses word for word. These are powerful moments which routinely lead to break-through session. Singing along, he certainly surprised himself, too!

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music playlists to elderly people suffering from a host of late life cognitive issues. For Home Care Assistance of El Paso County, we are the only non-medical home care company in Colorado Springs that is certified in Music & Memory. The secret power behind the music is using specific music that resonates with that client. More can be learned in the film, Alive Inside which features a man named Henry who is in the very late stages of dementia. Henry can longer remember family, he cannot speak or care for himself. Then, a song that he recognizes from his young adulthood is played and he is immediately animated with eyes lit up. He begins singing the song word for word and rocks in his wheelchair. Specific music brought him back from the depths of dementia. Henrys clip can be viewed on YouTube under Henry Music & Memory.

Home Care Assistance has works with clients whove suffered strokes, brain injury, dementia, Alzheimers disease, and PTSD from warfare. For my take, the most rewarding experience came from my most challenged client. This man had suffered four strokes and could no longer hold conversations with his family and friends. He lost the capability to convey even the most routine request. As I began my work, he and his wife sat silent and resigned opposite a large dining room table. After some musical forensic work I understood they grew up listening to Motown music. Easily, I searched my database for My Girl by The Temptations. The first notes took hold. To all our surprise, he pointed to his wife and sang the song to her- My girl, my girl, talking bout my girl. Both their eyes welled with tears as he had returned home in that moment. Later, I learned it was the longest form of conversation they had together in years.

Why does music have this effect on people? Harvard Health reports,

Listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and rewardResearchers at the music and neuro-imaging laboratory at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have shown that singing lyrics can be especially helpful to people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the undamaged right side of the brain, people can learn to speak their thoughts by singing them first and gradually dropping the melody.

Medical research is finding a solution in music for people who have experienced cognitive decline. Its exciting to see how much music can really assist someone.

Home Care Assistance of El Paso County offers personalized music playlists on mp3 players for each of their clients as a gift. Owner Dorothy Silvanic says, Music has helped so many of our clients and we enjoy how happy it makes them. Home Care Assistance has their own music library of CDs to make these personalized playlists. Donations of CDs can be sent to Home Care Assistance at 13395 Voyager Parkway Suite 120 Colorado Springs, CO 80921.



Jessica Colson is the Cognitive Therapeutics Director for Home Care Assistance of El Paso County. She is a Colorado State Dementia Care Specialist, a Cognitive Therapeutics Interventionist, a Music & Memory certified volunteer and she is a certified yoga instructor.

Other Articles You May Like

Informed Decisions: Benefits of Professional Senior Living Advice | Podcast

Informed Decisions: Benefits of Professional Senior Living AdvicePosted: February 22, 2024 , in My Care Advisors PodcastFor older adults, few decisions carry as much weight as selecting the ideal Assisted Living Community to meet their needs. With a staggering number of nearly 31,000 Assisted Living Communities across the U.S., the task of finding the perfect match can feel daunting, overwhelming, and emotionally draining.However, enlisting the expertise of a seasoned senior living advisor can help alleviate these burdens. By partnering with a knowledgeable professional who comprehensively understands the continuum of senior care options, tailored to individual needs and preferences, you can navigate this pivotal transition with confidence. Such advisors not only ensure the quality of life for you or your loved one but also offer invaluable support throughout every step of the decision-making process. From clarifying intricate details to providing emotional reassurance, their guidance proves indispensable in securing a comfortable and fulfilling living arrangement for seniors.Click to listen to this episode:Tune in for insights and resources from Tracy Toomer, Certified Senior Advisor and Owner at CarePatrol Collin County-Central.About Tracy Toomer:Tracy Toomer is President and Owner of CarePatrol of Collin County. CarePatrol is the nations largest senior care solutions franchise in the United States. Through more than 200 offices in 35 states, local senior advisors provide a free service in helping families find quality, top-rated assisted living, independent living, memory care, and in-home care.Toomer is a seasoned business executive with more than 25 years of experience in the specialty retail, grocery, restaurant, fitness and now in senior healthcare. In recent years Toomer served as vice-president of operations for the largest Planet Fitness Franchise, with over 168 locations in 14 states. There she built an operations team of seven regional directors and grew from 69 gyms to 168 gyms through two acquisitions and organic growth.Toomer holds a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) designation awarded to qualified, multidisciplinary professionals serving older adults. Tracy is active in the senior community and brings a creditable and important voice to finding safer senior living. Each month, Tracy facilitates mental aerobics at the Wellness center for Older Adults in Plano, Texas.In 2022 Tracy earned the Compassion Ambassador Award from CarePatrol Franchises, LLC amongst her 180 Franchise peers. Her dedication to the families and those living with dementia inspired the Franchisees to do more; to contribute more for a huge segment of their client base.Tracy Toomer is a proud southern California native but currently resides in Allen, Texas with her parents and four-legged brother Bruno. Show/Episode Notes:Learn what the role of a Senior Living Advisor means and some of the services they offerDiscover how working with a Senior Living Advisor can help you navigate the complicated world of Assisted LivingHear about the importance of working with a Senior Living Advisor to avoid potential dangers or hazardsWalk away with tips and tricks from Tracy Toomers past experiences Determine some of the resources available to you and where to find them

Harmonious Healing: Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors

Harmonious Healing: Benefits of Music Therapy for SeniorsFebruary 6, 2024 | Tiffany Wyndham Hunt, MA, MT-BC, Music Therapist Board CertifiedAs we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, and maintaining a good quality of life can become a challenge. In this pursuit of well-being, music therapy for seniors has emerged as a powerful and uplifting tool. Beyond being a source of joy and entertainment, music therapy has proven to offer physical, emotional and cognitive benefits for supporting quality of life.Music Therapy ExplainedWhat is music therapy anyway? According to the American Music Therapy Association, its the use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapy is administered by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.Enhancing Cognitive FunctionMusic has a unique ability to stimulate multiple regions of the brain simultaneously. For seniors, especially those dealing with cognitive decline or dementia, participating in music therapy can help activate neural pathways and improve their cognitive function. The rhythm, melody, harmonic progression, instrumentation, style of music, and so many other aspects can support reminiscence and memories, communication, alertness, engagement and cognitive response.Breakthrough BehaviorsBarbara, a CC Young memory support resident, appeared tired and, when asked by our music therapist how she was doing, she commonly answered that she was hanging in there. During one music therapy session, Barbara was given a small tambourine and naturally began to play it. Barbara gradually became more engaged, including the time when Take Me Home, Country Roads was playing, and she commented, Virginia is far away. This was an exciting breakthrough during the session, as Barbara had been reluctant to participate.Emotional Well-BeingMusic has a powerful and scientifically based ability to evoke emotions and memories. Due to changing living circumstances that often accompany aging, seniors may face challenges such as loneliness, depression or anxiety. Music therapy offers an emotional outlet, comfort, relaxation and a sense of connection. Listening to or singing familiar tunes or participating in music-making activities lifts spirits, reduces stress and creates a positive emotional environment. Music is innate in our culture, and it is therefore a source of grounding. So when music is intentionally employed by a music therapist, it can produce noticeable comfort, enjoyment and camaraderie.At the beginning of one particular group music therapy session, CC Young resident Rose was dozing in her chair. When approached by our music therapist who was playing the song New York, New York, Rose awoke with a big smile, began singing along and played a hand drum while moving to the beat of the music. She perked up, sharing with the group memories of her times visiting New York City and how much she loved shopping there.Physical RehabilitationMusic therapy programs for seniors dealing with physical ailments or limitations can also be integrated into rehabilitation plans of care. The rhythmic patterns and coordinated movements associated with music aid in improving motor skills, coordination and overall physical well-being. Whether through dance, rhythmic exercises or playing instruments, seniors experience benefits in movement that promote physical and mental health, often aiding their rehab and road to recovery.Social ConnectionMusic brings people together and finds common ground regardless of race, language and socio-economic factors. Music therapy does the same thing. Through group activities or one-on-one sessions, it creates a sense of community and social connection. Group singing, drum circles or interactive musical games provide opportunities for social interaction, which reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. Music therapy creates a sense of belonging and emotional support.Habla EspaolAt CC Young, occasionally, we will care for a resident for whom English is a second language. When Julio came to CC Young for rehab services, he was encouraged to participate in music therapy as part of his care plan. He was delighted to know the music therapist spoke Spanish and had fun joining the therapist in singing Spanish hymns.Improved Sleep QualitySleep disorders are common among seniors, and they can affect physical and mental health. According to UC Davis Health, music at around 60 beats per minute, which is the same as a relaxed heart, can slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and promote better sleep patterns, contributing to overall improvement in quality of sleep. Likewise, listening to calming music before bedtime or incorporating music into relaxation routines can promote better sleep patterns and contribute to an overall improvement in sleep quality.In the symphony of life, music therapy stands out as a harmonious healer on multiple levels for older adults. Music therapys ability to address physical, emotional and cognitive well-being makes it a valuable and accessible tool for seniors. As we continue to explore the therapeutic potential of music, it becomes increasingly clear that the melody of life can be enriched, and the challenges of aging can be met with the uplifting power of music therapy.Want to learn more about music therapy for seniors? Contact us and get in touch with a CC Young senior living expert today.

Facts You Need to Know About Dementia

What is Dementia?Dementia is actually not a disease in and of itself but, rather, a syndrome that is characterized by a collection of symptoms affecting cognition and memory, making it hard to remember, think clearly, and make decisions. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia, although its important to note that not all people who have been diagnosed with dementia necessarily have Alzheimers Disease. Some other types of dementia typically identified are vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontal temporal and mixed dementia.What Are Some Dementia Symptoms?All of us have occasional problems recalling a name, accessing an old memory, or remembering where we may have parked our car. But someone living with dementia will exhibit a range of troubling and persistent symptoms that get worse and may include:         Changes in mood and personality         Decreased or poor judgment         Problems speaking or writing         Confusion with time or place         Disruptions in daily life due to memory loss         Difficulty managing everyday tasks         Repetitive behaviorsIf your loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, its important to know that it does not necessarily mean a dementia diagnosis; infections and dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, and depression can present many of these signs. However, if any of these symptoms persist or worsen, its essential that you consult a physician who can make a diagnosis. Its also helpful to know that no single test can make a determination; a diagnosis is based on a range of medical tests, creating a baseline, and an individuals medical history.How Quickly Does the Disease Progress?Dementia is a progressive condition it gets worse over time, not better. For some, the disease progresses rapidly; in others, it takes years to get to the point where outside help is required. The progression depends largely on the underlying cause, whether it be Alzheimers disease, Lewy body disease, Parkinsons disease, or some other root condition. While people will experience the stages of dementia differently, most will exhibit some of the symptoms. On average, dementia patients will live four to eight years after their diagnosis, although some live as long as 20 years after being diagnosed.Does Dementia Only Affect Seniors?Dementia is more commonly diagnosed in people over 65, but it can affect people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. The estimated average age of onset of dementia in the U.S. is 83+ years old.How Can We Help After A Dementia Diagnosis?If someone has been diagnosed with dementia, its important to know there are expert resources available to both you and your family members that can help you navigate the progression of the disease. The sooner you familiarize yourself with them, the better. As Certified Dementia Practitioners, the advisors at Senior Care Authority can help you decide on the right help at the right time, including setting up in-home visits, scheduling respite care, learning important communication skills, and helping you decide on an assisted living situation, should that be warranted. It is so important to remember that you are not alone. We have helped hundreds of families respond to the challenges of a dementia diagnosis, and we can do the same for you, too. To find out more about the symptoms of dementia and how we can help, get in touch with Senior Care Authority today.