Music therapy can be helpful in a number of situations, and especially for seniors battling a degenerative cognitive disease.

The practice can be as simple as listening to music from the past and reminiscing, to actively learning to play a new instrument.

What exactly is the practice of music therapy?

Music therapy is considered a non-pharmacological approach to aiding depression, pain and to help people with agitation and aggressive behaviors associated with dementia. By focusing on a person’s strengths and overall care goals, a music therapist will work one on one with a person or in a group setting. A typical session includes the use of musical instruments, singing and physical movement as appropriate. This is thought to provide a person with familiarity, predictability and a feeling of security.

What are the benefits of music therapy?

Media such as the documentary Alive Inside, showcasing the work of Dan Cohen and books such as Oliver Saks Musicophilia have shown the public the impact music can have on the lives of people with cognitive impairments. Music therapy has been shown to manage stress, alleviate pain, improve communication and facilitate movement. It has been used to help people with autism, dementia and for aiding the development of infants and for assisting students in speech development and reinforcing academic concepts.

How does music affect our brains?

The brain responds to music in a specific way. Studies suggest it is the actual vibrations from the sound waves which creates a response in the way the brain perceives stimulus. Current research is exploring the relationship between this connection and possible treatment of symptoms related to Parkinson’s Disease and some forms of dementia.

What should you look for in a music therapist and what are some of the tools they use?

When looking for a music therapist, keep in mind that this discipline is evidence based and should be delivered by a person with training and experience. Look for professionals with Board for Music Therapist endorsements and certifications. The Michigan Music Therapists website provides resources for how to locate a music therapist in your area.

A lay person can use tools such as iPods, Pandora and live music, music to reminisce with people with dementia. When working with people with dementia, a care partner should identify the individual’s interests and musical preferences. Keep in mind the use of music that may be specific to the person’s culture, background and current interests. The use of music has been shown to help insomnia and restlessness. It allows people to communicate when they may not normally able to use words. Music is a way to promote social connectedness and opens a pathway for a person to develop purpose and meaning for people when they may be experiencing functional decline.

You can learn more about programs for seniors by visiting Porter Hills website.

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Mackenzie Thadenis a producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email us atnews@wzzm13.comor visit ourFacebook pageorTwitter.