Music has enormous power. It can motivate. It can soothe. It can make you smile, and move you to tears. It is more accessible now than ever before, and can be a huge help when taking care of patients with dementia.
We have seen first-hand how simply turning off the television in a patient’s room and turning on some lively music can completely change their mood. Some songs just make you want to move, and having older adults do just that instead of sitting still for hours on end can have a huge impact on their physical and emotional health. Turn on some music for a few minutes when you enter a patient’s room to give medications or perform assessments and encourage them clap, march their legs, or wave their arms!
Music can also be helpful when a resident is anxious and/or resisting care. Try playing soft, calming music while helping a patient with morning care and bathing. Ask their family members to bring in an old smartphone or I-pod that’s loaded with the person’s favorite songs or type of music. If they like to wear headphones, ask family members to provide several inexpensive pairs.
Music can help bring back fond memories and lead to wonderful discussions about them too. You might be surprised at how many people with memory loss can still remember the words of their favorite songs from 40 or 50 years ago. Patriotic songs can be especially moving for people of the “greatest generation”, and popular songs from old movies and show tunes are fun to hear too.
Keep in mind that music can be overstimulating for some people with cognitive impairment, so be mindful of this and observe the reactions of residents when music is playing.