I love music. Although I have no talent for producing musical sounds, it seems to permeate my whole being when the right pieces are played. Did you ever notice that there is music for every mood? There is special music for each of us that brings forth feelings and memories. Some music energizes us; other music might make us feel quiet, spiritual or even sad. Why is this?
Studies show that an unborn baby with 6 months of development has the potential for thought. He feels the rhythm of his heart beat. He feels rhythm and sound of his mother’s voice and her body movement. Children at very young ages can keep time to music. For humans, this is innate. It is also the last thing that is lost as they age and or become affected by dementia.
It is no wonder that music has a definite impact on people who have dementia. As dementia develops into intermediate and advanced stages, patients become isolated in their own world. They can stare into space in a trans and lose their feeling or knowledge of Self. They become victims of taking a lot of medications and become used to responding or following directions of their caregivers at home or in a facility. They lose the power to direct their own life. They struggle with remembering who they are. How sad.
A man named Dan Cohen is a social worker. As a volunteer, he brought music on an experimental basis, into a nursing home using an IPod. He found that dementia patients who had fallen into great depression and/or who had lost their own identity came back to life with music. They began to sing, dance or move parts of their body to the rhythm. Their whole demeanor changed. They went from an existing lump to a happy, engaged human being again. The trick is to find the right music for each patient—the music that has meaning. Dan Cohen in his studies found that meaningful music or personalized music is inseparable from emotions and can make connections in the brain that have been lost through the advancement of dementia. Meaningful music wakes up the patient. The more often the patient experiences this form of music therapy the longer the engagement with life lasts. It allows them to reacquire their identity. Do they still have dementia? Yes. Music therapy is not a cure for dementia. It is a means to keep patients engaged in life.