Music has been shown to provide substantial support to older adults living with cognitive decline. Music therapists work to maintain quality of life by facilitating communication, emotional support and reminiscence. However, sometimes, it’s no longer possible for sessions to be conducted, or there may be too much time between sessions for the techniques to be effective. When this is the case, there are ways that carers in an aged care facility can maintain and support programs followed by the resident.
Why Music Therapy and Cognitive Decline?
Cognitive decline can be a challenging time for everyone involved. The confusion and isolation that can be felt by those experiencing it can hurt relationships with loved ones and those around them. Music therapy has been shown to help evoke memories and aid in recognising family and friends. At the same time, active participation in music has also been found to improve emotional, cognitive, and social states while decreasing behaviours of concern in persons with dementia.
What Happens When the Music Stops?
Sometimes it is impossible to have consistent or ongoing music therapy sessions, but that doesn’t mean the music has to stop. For example, suppose music therapy sessions are no longer ongoing. In that case, the music therapist can create a plan to help maintain the positive effects of the therapy after the sessions have ended. For example, caregivers or Aged Care Workers can help assist those experiencing cognitive decline by providing familiar songs and encouraging them to sing them. Active participation in singing helps to stimulate the brain while also increasing the capacity and strength of communication. Music can also be utilised in a more receptive way by simply listening to familiar music, which has been found to aid in reminiscence and cognition. A 2002 study also found that background music could increase awareness and decrease confusion in aged care facilities when care staff performed different tasks around an individual.
Useful Technology to Assist with Music Therapy Programs
As cognitive decline increases, an individual’s ability to correctly choose and play their own music may diminish. One piece of technology that has been designed specifically for people experiencing cognitive decline is the SMPL Lift Player. The player has a simple interface consisting of a lid that lifts to start the music playing and a single button to skip the tracks. This adds to ease of use and the higher possibility of an individual’s music being played.
Music is our life
Music plays such an important and meaningful role in our day-to-day lives that to be without it? Maybe we wouldn’t be the same. We at Creative Therapy Adelaide all believe this at our core, which is why this dementia action week, we encourage anyone with loved ones experiencing cognitive decline to check in and make sure they have music.
Blog post written by Jarran Zen, currently undertaking Masters of Music Therapy at The University of Melbourne.