Music is very powerful. So powerful it can improve the quality of your Elder’s life, particularly if they have a form of dementia. The most wonderful aspect of music is that it uses many parts of the brain to listen and process it. Even people with advanced cognitive impairment, such as an advanced type of dementia continue to enjoy listening to music. They benefit from its ability to lift their spirits because it is tapping into parts of their brain that are not damaged.
Music can make your Elder feel joyful and alive (or trigger sad memories).
Music can make your Elder feel like moving, dancing and singing.
Music such as hymns and lullabies can bring comfort and reassurance.
Classical music can bring a feeling of peace and calm.
Do you know what the most enjoyable and meaningful music for older people to listen to is?
It’s music they have listened to repetitively and, they have attached positive and strong emotions to. The attachment of emotions to music, acts like a ‘double strength memory’. It is saved in the part of the brain that is less affected by dementia and therefore, has a greater chance of sounding ‘familiar’. For example, music that your Loved One listened to, in their late teens and early twenties when they were falling in love for the first time or at another time of their life when they were experiencing similar intense emotions, captivates Elders with cognitive decline.
I am reaching out to you to:
1. Share a small sample of how Daughterly Care Caregivers harness the power of music when caring for our clients; and
2. Request your assistance in sharing with Daughterly Care, music that your Loved One enjoyed in their earlier life and possibly, still do now.
Improving Mood Through Music
John* is in his 70s, blind and lives with a dementia. Daughterly Care has been enabling and supporting John to live in his home with dignity and independence for over 5 years.
Our Caregivers had observed that John had started to display ‘challenging behaviours’. He was increasingly expressing frustration and unwilling to do daily living tasks. There are always numerous possible causes for behaviour changes. Was his change the result of:
1. increased frustration;
2. increased confusion due to an infection (commonly a urinary tract infection);
3. depression (whose symptoms mimic dementia);
4. perhaps he had moved to a new level/stage of his dementia; or
5. a combination of all of the above?
After eliminating infection as a cause, we set about to improve John’s mood through music.
Kim’s Experience with Music and John*
Kim has been part of the Daughterly Care team for more than 5 years.
“I borrow different styles of older music from my local library, and take them to John. He responds with tapping and jigging, also he talks about that era of music. Sometimes he will tell me how “the music feels like summer” and it makes him so happy. At other times when listening to opera, he yells very loudly as he anticipates the crescendo and it is wonderful to watch.
I have asked John to dance and he jumps straight up! He takes me in a ballroom hold and whirls me around the small area of his dining room. He knows so many styles of dance and he is getting better at remembering them now! Music improves John’s mood, his movement and re-connects him to past happy memories.”
Kim and her Ukulele
A number of Daughterly Care Caregivers take musical instruments to clients’ homes. “I take my Ukulele to a man with Alzheimer’s disease. I played some older songs and he started singing. He told me his favourite hymn was Abide With Me so we sang that together.
He told me, he had sung in very large choirs and sang solos at weddings. He also used to play a mouth organ. I spoke to his wife about this and she found the mouth organ for the following week. He played Abide With Me and Amazing Grace. It made him so happy.”
Music, Depression and Dementia
“Recently I visited Jane* living with depression and a type of dementia. I asked her husband if we could put a CD on rather than Jane listening to her iPod with headphones. I wanted to be able to interact with Jane and her music.
Jane started jigging in the chair and before long, she and her husband were laughing and chatting.
I was vacuuming around them and I hurled myself into a form of line dance style. Well, Jane roared with laughter and applauded when I finished.”
The Soothing Power of Lullabys
“I visit Dorothy* in her 90’s every Friday night and we sing old-style folk songs really loudly together. She says,”Oh no one can hear us!”
I sometimes talk about music I am playing on my Ukulele and she will say “Oh I loved The Seekers” so we pull out a CD and listen to them while I cook her a delicious dinner.
Dorothy and I sing as I help her get ready for bed. I give her a good massage and wash then, put on her nightie and tuck her into bed. She now always says “which lullaby are you going to sing tonight?” and I reply, “which one would you like?”. Dorothy always chooses Braham’s Lullaby or the Aboriginal song Carra Barra Wirra Canna. Dorothy shuts her eyes and, looks so beautiful and peaceful when she enjoys my singing.
Somehow I always sound better when I sing to Dorothy. “Thank you and goodnight” she says, and then I go.
Dorothy was a Head Mistress and didn’t have children, so our visits to her are really valued.
Family Connection Through Music
“My client, Joan’s* Granddaughter was learning to play the guitar so I took my Ukelele. I copied some of my music which was suitable for a 22 year old and Joan held the music sheet for us like a music stand. Joan was beaming with happiness, she bops in time to the music and is very encouraging to her Granddaughter. It was such a lovely time for them and we sounded good.
Joan also loves to listen to Tom Jones. She always says, “Oh he is so lovely, I just love listening to him”. We do her exercises for her rota cuff weakness and we always end up dancing.
I find music helps Joan to be more confident and she will try more difficult movements, like standing on one leg to balance. Joan used to always tip to the side but she can now hold her body upright and alternate her legs.
Music is certainly an important stimulus for Joan and I am always so happy to see her dance. She always finishes off, by saying “that was really good – I like that”.
“I believe music, exercise and dance are very important in the lives of older people.” – Kim
Nursery Rhymes and Advanced Dementia
“I regularly visit a lady in a nursing home with very advanced dementia. She is delightful and admired by many. I assist her to eat, massage her, talk with her and most importantly, to connect with Betty* I sing Nursery Rhymes.
Nursery Rhymes take people back to a time when they were secure and happy as a child. The words and rhythms from these songs are the first songs they ever learnt, often sung by their mother, and somehow they never forget them. When I sing nursery rhymes to Betty she smiles and I can see that after she feels good.” – Luisa.
Daughterly Care Caregiver, Luisa
Denise’s Experience with Music and John*
We celebrated Denise working for Daughterly Care for 15 years in 2018 and, she supported and enabled John to remain at home for 8 years so she knows John well.
“I spend many lovely hours each week with John. As John’s dementia increased we had some challenging times until I discovered how much John loves music and how it makes him feel calmer and happier. Music transports John back to a time when he and his wife attended the opera together so I asked him if he would like to listen to classical music each day.
Yesterday, I put on an André Rieu CD and we danced. John was so engaged in the orchestra and movement. I was delighted to see the joy on his face; it made my day. Music reduces John’s frustration with his memory loss and reduced ability to communicate. More importantly, it reminds John of joyful past times with his wife.“
The Power of Music to Make You Feel Love
If you doubt the amazingly powerful benefits of music, especially for people living with dementia in Nursing Homes who are lacking stimulation and connection, please watch this video of Henry who has sat, not moving or talking in a nursing home for 3.5 years.
Watch how he reacts to hearing music he loved when he was younger. It stimulates his movement, speech and emotion. When asked how music makes him feel, Henry answers “I feel love, I feel love”.
Music Therapy at Daughterly Care
For 21 years, Daughterly Care Caregivers have used the powerful benefits of meaningful music being played to clients. We have used music to connect with clients to divert and calm clients as well as, to stimulate clients. In the words of one of our Caregivers, “Daughterly Care‘s Caregivers have been using music long before experts discovered its value and its recent trend”.
Suggestion: If you have any preferred music at home that we don’t already know about, please send us an email. We will ensure that music is in the Care Plan and all Daughterly Care‘s Caregivers are playing this favoured music when they visit your Loved One.
Note: iPods and iPads loaded with favourite personal music is one of the greatest gifts you can give for Mother’s or Father’s Day, Birthdays and for Christmas.
If you have family, friends or colleagues whose parents would benefit from Music Therapy or our services please show them this webpage. Your recommendation of Daughterly Care is the greatest compliment you can give us.
More on how Daughterly Care uses music when caring for elders can be found here.