• Hermi Viljoen

Music therapy and Dementia: Improving quality of life

Music and emotional wellbeing are linked in a powerful way. People respond to music from a very early age, before words and language are developed. This continues towards the end of our lives when verbal abilities may be lost. Music activates the logical and creative areas of the brain. This is beneficial for individuals with dementia as it stimulates them cognitively and assists with long and short term memory. Music offers a space to express emotions freely. It is also a great motivator to get the individual physically moving to music whilst also encouraging speech through singing. Music has the capacity to overcome physical and cognitive limitations and encourage engagement and interaction. This offers a person a more accessible way to communicate their physical and emotional needs.

What does Music Therapy offer individuals with Dementia?

1. Reduce agitation and promote positive changes in mood and emotional states.

2. Offer non-pharmacological management of pain and discomfort.

3. Stimulate the mind through reminiscence and creative self-expression, which helps to improve quality of life.

4. Increase awareness of self and the environment.

5. Help with reality orientation (time, place, person recognition).

6. Aid attention and memory recall through singing familiar songs.

7. Promote relaxation and stress management.

8. Enhance social interaction and provide a sense of belonging.

9. Provide an additional means of communication when the ability to talk and understand language has gone.

10. Provide the client with a sense of control through the opportunity to engage in choice making.

11. Provide sensory stimulation to encourage a response.

12. Increase motivation and engagement during physical exercises. 

Music Therapy is proven to be effective even for people who have not responded or are resistant to other treatment approaches. Sessions are very flexible and guided by the needs of the individual. Sessions can be delivered with or without instruments, with accompaniment (either live or pre-recorded) and music listening. Sessions can be facilitated in group and individual settings. Caretakers and family members are encouraged to attend the sessions. It is important to ensure that your music therapist is a board certified arts therapist with the Health Professions council of South Africa (HPCSA). This is to ensure you receive the highest quality music therapy services offered to you and your loved ones.

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