By Janelle Johnson
What do you turn to when you need an emotional boost? How about if you need a little energy to help motivate you to get some tedious household task accomplished? If you are like many of us, you turn to music. Whether your music is hip hop, classic rock and roll, blues and jazz, country, or classical, chances are, your music feeds your soul.
Our music cheers us when we are down, helps us to celebrate our successes and is a faithful companion on a road trip or just hanging out at home. Most of us make music a significant part of our lives in some way. You don't have to be musically talented to love music.
It should be no surprise to us that music continues to be a powerful tool when communicating with someone who has dementia. Music can stimulate long term memory, shift mood, and facilitate physical movement and language. It often provides an opportunity for social interaction and can be a useful tool to reduce agitation and anxiety. While this information is not new, the use of music to calm, engage, and entertain those with memory loss is such a simple solution that it tends to get overlooked. We forget the power that is available to us in so many forms and, for those who aren't too shy to belt one out, it is as easy as opening our mouths, or even humming a little tune.
The benefits of music are documented in medical studies. A 1999 study led by Dr. Ardash Kumar at the University of Miami's School of Medicine noted that participants in a month long program of music for 30 minutes a day, five times a week had increased levels of melatonin, a hormone associated with mood regulation, lower aggression, reduced depression, and enhanced sleep. A recent project launched in a care facility in California has expanded to over 140 settings in the United States and Canada. These settings are using iPods and headsets for their residents, each having their own iPod loaded with music they love. These efforts have been spearheaded by Don Cohen, whose website for the Music and Memory Program explains how you can donate an iPod to the program.
Make the gift of music a reality for the loved one in your life whose memory is failing. Music is a powerful tool. Put it to work in the life of someone you know.
Johnson is vice president of memory care at Prelude Memory Care Cottages in Woodbury