Music Therapy and Dementia

Music therapy can provide opportunities for:

  • Reminiscing
  • Experiencing positive emotions
  • Building feelings of control and empowerment through successful experiences
  • Creating a sense of security through familiar music
  • Reducing anxiety and stress
  • Managing pain and discomfort without the use of drugs
  • Improving movement and vocal fluency
  • Enhancing emotional intimacy with spouses and families
  • Increasing social interaction with caregivers and families
Music therapy can help “bring people back” from Alzheimer’s or dementia, because music interacts with many parts of the brain that are still intact and helps to organize the brain in powerful ways. People can remember old songs, memories, or family members and be reoriented to time and place. Music can facilitate moments of connection that are beautiful, profound and joyful.

Music therapy activities may include:

  • Lyric analysis
  • Song writing
  • Guided imagery
  • Music listening and enjoyment
  • Active music making – drumming, singing, or playing an instrument
  • Music therapy relaxation techniques

References and Resources

Brotons, M. & Kroger, S. M. (2000). The impact of music therapy on language functioning in dementia. Journal of Music Therapy, 37(3), 183-95.

Cevasco, A. M. & Grand, R. E. (2003). Comparison of differeent methods for eliciting exercise-to-music for clients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Music Therapy, 40(1), 41-56.

Hanser, S. B., and Thompson, L. W. (1994). Effects of a music therapy strategy on depressed older adults. Journal of Gerontology, 49(6), 265-9.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Reference on Music Therapy

Alzheimer’s Foundation of American Resource Page

“Music has power—especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. And it can spark compelling outcomes even in the very late stages of the disease.

When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”


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