While there is no cure to date for Alzheimer’s patients, there is some good news. There are specific areas of the brain that process music and remain mostly unaffected by dementia. Someone with advanced Alzheimer’s may not remember what day of the week it is, or the name of a loved one but put on one of her favorite songs, and she may break out in lyrics, recalling each word to a tune from 50 years ago.
Caregivers can reconnect with a loved one over a tune they both enjoyed in the past. Memories can bubble of warm family gatherings or the night someone met their spouse. Not only can it help recover happier times of the past, but it can also soothe the symptoms of dementia like anxiety and depression. It is essential to develop individualized goals for each person. A specific song can elicit joy in one person while conjuring up sadness in another. One Alzheimer’s patient may want to play the piano while another wants to lean back with the headphones and a playlist from their youth.
The good news is that music can bring joy to Alzheimer’s patients while we all wait for a cure. Shakespeare was not far off when he wrote, “if music be the food of life, play on!”