Words are the medium for a therapist and music is the medium of a music therapist who is usually a trained musician. Although it will not change the course of a disease, music therapy will allow the person to engage and be much more capable of communicating more clearly.
Music therapists work directly with patients and family members to find the best music for the desired goal–for instance to improve memory, lower agitation or improve cognitive skills. It can also be used to re-tune the brain to retain certain tasks during early stages of dementia and, in later stages, is most helpful in maintaining motor skills. It is known to reduce anxiety and stress while increasing attention, motivation and focus.
Active music therapy engages a patient in play involving the playing pf an instrument or the voice and, according to research, can have immediate physical results. For instance if a person doesn’t use their hands much anymore, if they are engaged in a drumming circle, it will strengthen their hands and they can maintain the strength and focus of holding a fork, spoon or glass.
How the brain processes music remains a mystery; all we know is that it is processed on many levels at once. “It’s very positive because we process music with almost every part of our brain, according to Concetta Tomaino, director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic function at Beth Abraham Family of health Services in in New York. (www.mom.com). Even in the late stages of dementia, music that has personal significance to someone is a strong stimulus to engage in responses in people. They will be able to feel the associations even if they are not able to name the song. Researchers including Tomaino have found a strong connection between the brains auditory cortex and its limbic system where emotions are processed. This special link makes it possible for sound to be processed immediately by areas of the brain associated with long term memory.
The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function was founded on Tomaino’s observations, together with those of noted neurologist and colleague Dr. Oliver Sacks and others, that many people with neurological damage learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music. In numerous clinical studies of older adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, familiar and likable music, not medication, has reduced depression; lessened agitation, increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability; and decreased problem behaviors. Music triggers long-term memories. “So we see people who have not spoken in years begin to sing songs that they knew in their early teens and early adulthood.” Also, when making music opposed to just listening or playing it, we activate another part of the brain that controls balance and movement–the cerebellum–in addition to cognitive and limbic areas. Also, studies have found that the combination of language processed by one part of the brain, and music–processed by many parts–increases chances of activating neurological pathways that language alone cannot. Music is a wonderful way to engage and connect to the loved one affected by loss and degeneration; a caregiver can play an instrument with, dance or sing and engage with that special someone again.
Music Therapy engages and stimulates the patient cognitively. Listening to, singing and or playing melodies and lyrics targets patients’ memories and also works as an emotional magnet. Creating songs (music and lyrics) is a way to engage imagination and mental function. Music therapy can be combined with OT (clapping, drumming), PT (dancing, exercising, heart function) and Speech Therapy (humming, singing lyrics) for maximum results depending on the person. It can be uplifting emotionally and engender a sense of connection.
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, MD- Explains the deep reach of music therapy for individuals who have cortical problems such as those who have dementia. “ While music can affect all of us, calm us, animate us, thrill us or serve to synchronize us at work or play, it may be especially powerful and have great therapeutic potential for patients with a variety of neurological conditions.”
How long do the effects of personalized music last? Watch this short video provided by Alzheimer’s Weekly as film ALIVE INSIDE’s Director Rossato-Bennett describe what’s behind music’s impact on dementia: http://www.alzheimersweekly.com/2014/12/morning-music-for-alzheimers-lasts-all.html
Since 1994, Medicare has reimbursed for treatment and, in specific cases, so has Medicaid. Both policies are fortified by the Music Therapy for Older Americans Act, passed in 1992.
Alzheimer’s Music Connect – Utilizing a patent pending process for enhancing carefully selected music, Alzheimer’s Music Connect has developed a non-pharmaceutical product capable of relaxing people while providing valuable respite for their Caregivers. Altus Oscillation™ is their patent pending technical process that “enhances the musical listening experience. Using this advanced audio recording technology, they combine calming Alpha waves, already present in the brain, with the ancient mantra OM sound and harmoniously unite them with well-known, recognizable music resulting in a significantly more therapeutic effect than music alone.” AMC reports that the positive improvement in behavior lasts nearly three hours and all Caregivers are able to take a personal break during this time. For more information or to buy their CDs, go to their website at: http://alzheimersmusicconnect.com
Please be sure to check our listings for PRACTITIONERS who can help. They are listed under Therapeutic & Artistic Practitioners under the NY Resources & Professionals tab on our home page or click right here: https://lewybodyresourcecenter.org/ny-resources-professionals/therapeutic-artistic-practitioners/