One primary benefit of music therapy for Alzheimer's is the calming effect it can have on patients. People with Alzheimer's disease often show aggression. Music therapy can help eliminate the tendency to act out. Another benefit of music therapy for Alzheimer's is that it can reduce the desire of the patient to wander. Improvements to cognitive functions have also been reported.
Alzheimer's disease causes the brain to degenerate; cognitive functions that are negatively impacted include memory and the ability to learn. The five senses are also affected, with hearing usually the first to go. As long as the patient still hears, he or she will most likely benefit from music therapy.
Used as a therapeutic tool, interactive communication through music therapy is sometimes possible. Improvement in speech fluency and content have also been noted. Music therapy for Alzheimer's patients increases brain chemicals such as melatonin, which helps to control moods. Reduced aggression levels and better sleep patterns are added benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer's.
Music therapy plans should be individually designed, taking into account the stage of the disease. As the illness progresses, the benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer's may change. Adjusting the therapy participation to suit each stage allows patients to continue receiving benefits for as long as possible.
Patients with mild dementia can help compose music and choose songs for the group's play list. Those more affected by the disease can listen to music to relax before meals or going to sleep. Even those with severe dementia may benefit from listening to soothing music throughout the day.
The benefits of music therapy are most noticeable for those with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Allowing Alzheimer's patients to choose the music they listen to has proven to be significant in how well they respond to the therapy. Patients can often remember the songs they listen to even after they no longer recognize faces or names.
Some Alzheimer's patients enjoy listening to music on media players. Recreation directors often incorporate music into daily resident recreation routines in nursing homes and hospitals. Facilities designed to house Alzheimer's patients also play music throughout the facility.
Lost memories are sometimes stimulated in Alzheimer's patients through music therapy. For example, a patient who loved listening to jazz music at home and dancing with his or her family may benefit from listening to jazz music at the nursing home. Those memories are triggered, which gives the patient pleasure.