"Data indicates that a significant number of people in mid to late stage dementia remember words and lines from poems they learned in childhood. Moreover, the participants show a high level of positive facial expressions, laughter, verbalizing memories, and robust social interactions." - Alzheimer's Poetry Project
A lot of research is being done regarding the use of music and poetry to help memory function in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Poetry and Music are closely related and the ability of music to stir our soul has long been known. Just turn on the radio, your iPod or other device to your favorite music and feel the changes it makes in you. Now that same beat that makes you tap your toes and swing your hips, may in fact help patients challenged with memory issues to function better and enjoy their lives.
Will is going to post a blog link related to this subject, but here is my take based on observation.
A music therapist comes to the senior community where I work and last week we went down and joined the group. She was amazing, and even more amazing was the effect she had on those in the audience. While most in the group are older folks with no memory issues, there are several who are in some stage of memory decline. The therapist gave everyone shakers and tambourines while she played the guitar and sang.
In seconds - yes seconds not minutes they were all singing and shaking to the beat, fully caught up in the music's spell. It was amazing to watch as even those with advanced Alzheimer's sang every word. Long term memory still in tact allows them to remember things like the words to song they learned decades ago.
“ When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements." -Alzheimer's Foundation of America
Does this help with everyday function? I believe it does. As the therapist said, using the shakers is exercise for the body, while singing is exercise for the mind. We all have heard ‘the mind is like a muscle and the more we exercise it the better off we are’. While the damage done by Alzheimer’s cannot at this time be reversed, exercising the brain is good for everyone. The stronger we are the better we function. Everyone came away from the session humming and smiling, fully refreshed. It was a delight to see. My sweet little lady had a very good afternoon that day.
Anything we as caregivers can do to make our clients life better is well worth the effort and in all reality our true mission as PALS. Put music in your bag of PAL tools and use it as often as you can. Let me know what you think and what results you get. Watch for Will's link to fascinating reports on the subject.
Be well my friends.