As the word gets around that music can make a huge difference for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, I keep hearing more and more people want to know how to use music effectively – therapeutically, even – with their loved ones who have dementia. In addition, there are more and more companies every day selling CDs and mp3s and apps designed especially for people with dementia. How do you even know where to start?
Knowing that there is a lot of confusing information out there, way more than any caregiver could expect to take in, let me boil it all down to one point:
There is no magic music.
In other words, you don’t have to worry about finding that single CD, DVD, playlist, or program that will definitely “work” for your loved one. What’s more, the music you already own may be all that you need for using recorded music for various purposes.
Something that has emerged from many years of music therapy research and practice is that relationship matters a lot in music therapy and caregiving through music. When you are bringing music into the caregiving relationship for a person with dementia, you need to pay special attention to two relationship factors:
- The listener’s relationship with the music
- How you relate to your care recipient during the music
We’ll look at those two factors in the next two posts in this series, so you can learn a few more ways to make music a valuable part of your caregiving routine.
Yes, there are some tips and tricks to learn, but before we get to those, I want you to know this:
Step 1: Trust your intuition.
You already have a relationship with your care recipient, and you know your loved ones better than anyone else. So, if you find something that “works” – helps to establish a routine, or calm someone down, or encourage exercise – then by all means, keep doing it! As a music therapist for people with dementia, I spend a significant chunk of time talking with family caregivers about the music and musical experiences that hold meaning for the person I’m seeing as a client.
You already know this stuff.
What I can help you do is take this knowledge to the next level, using what you already know in a more intentional way. (We can also problem-solve those situations when it seems like *nothing* works.)
So, we’ll dig deeper in the next two posts, but until then, all you have to do is share the music that already is important and meaningful with your loved one.
What music have you already found that “works” for your loved one with dementia? Please share your discoveries below!