5 Ways Music Can Help Individuals With Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Music is one of the most powerful forms of expression for mankind. It can reach us and affect us while we are still in the womb and take us back in time when we are older. Music has been used to stimulate, entertain, soothe, excite, celebrate, and mourn. In some instances, music may have the ability to break through barriers caused by Alzheimer’s and other dementia, triggering memories that otherwise were lost.

Though music therapy has long been known to help those with Alzheimer’s, new emerging research is beginning to help industry experts understand why. To help you care for a family member, we have compiled a list of the various ways music can help an individual with Alzheimer’s.

How Does Music Help Alzheimer’s Patients?

1. Promote Memory Recollection

Music can be utilized to promote the recollection of memories in Alzheimer’s patients. Neurologist Oliver Sacks says, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory. It brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” Integrating music therapy with daily rituals is an easy way to help a family member with Alzheimer’s recall activities and events.

2. Musical Recognition and Appreciation

Studies indicate Alzheimer’s patients are able to recognize and appreciate music in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. If you’re looking for ways to connect with your family member, we recommend playing a familiar record, CD, or song. Listening to music may promote memories of childhood, marriage, and friendships.

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3. Music May Enhance Emotional & Physical Ties to Family and Friends

In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, it may become hard for patients to display emotions to family members or children. To enhance your emotional connections with a family member, we recommend participating in music therapy a couple of times each week. Music sessions may lead to dancing and hugs.

4. Singing May Stimulate the Brain

Previous studies have shown that singing is an easy way to stimulate the left and right sides of the brain. Since music is able to promote mental awareness, it may be a good idea to sing with your family member to promote recollection of life achievements, events, and memories.

5. Music Can Alleviate Stress & Stimulate Positive Interactions

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, integrating music into the daily lives of Alzheimer’s patients can reduce stress, alleviate agitation, promote physical interactions, enhance motor skills, and facilitate mental stimulation. Playing your family member’s favorite song is a simple way to boost happiness.

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Impact of Music on Each Stage of Alzheimer’s

Concetta M. Tomaino, the director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family, outlines various ways to use music to improve the life of a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Stages of Alzheimer’s

An excellent way to promote recognition is to play a song that your family member is familiar with. Perceptual variations may change the way an individual with dementia hears music. Play a recognizable artist or song and dance with your family member. It may also be a good idea to draft a library of old songs that can be used to assist in reminiscence and recollection. If you are looking for mental stimulation activities, encourage your mother or father with Alzheimer’s to play an instrument that they enjoyed in the past.

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Early & Middle Stages of Alzheimer’s

Once you are playing an intimate song, encourage your family member to tap his or her feet or clap. A great way to boost the confidence of your mother or father is to find a fulfilling activity that is easy to complete, such as karaoke. Purchase a karaoke machine and ask your loved one to sing along to classic songs.

Middle Stages of Alzheimer’s

Play songs or sing as your family member is walking to enhance balance and agility. Consider utilizing background music to improve your mother or fathers mood. The music should be relaxing and non-rhythmic to reduce behavior issues at night.

Late Stages of Alzheimer’s

Play soothing music to provide a sense of comfort for family members with Alzheimer’s. Leverage facial signals to communicate emotions when conducting activities. As a Alzheimer’s or dementia caregiver, you have an endless supply of songs and artists at your disposal.

The Internet has made it easy to discover and download music quickly. If your parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia is in a bad mood, consider downloading a familiar and soothing song. Take your loved one on a musical journey, making new memories while you uncover old ones

Terra Vista is an Alzheimer’s and dementia assisted living community that is dedicated to caring for individuals with memory issues. If you have questions about the signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s, contact a memory care specialist from Terra Vista by phone at (630) 793-0753.

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.