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How to find the best Music Therapy for Dementia Patients

Occupational Therapists (OTs) working with elderly patients assert that music therapy is a key treatment for those suffering from dementia, helping to engage, manage stress, soothe and uplift the moods of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and memory impairment.

Nonprofit groups in the US such as Music and Memory are looking to bring music therapy to individuals in nursing home and assisted living facilities. They accept donations of old and unwanted MP3 players, which they then fill with music from the patient’s past. They assert that even non-communicative and low-functioning individuals become animated in response to the music.

In order to identify the best music for therapy, the following tips are recommended:

1. Mood Enhancing Music: Personally Meaningful Songs and Familiar Old Favorites
OT Kim Warchol states that music should be personal and familiar to the patient, so ask them or their family members for any specific likes and dislikes.

2. Stimulating Music: Pop Songs
Genres such as big band, swing and salsa can be used to inspire dance and movement in dementia sufferers, giving them much needed physical exercise.

3. Soothing Music for Agitation Management
Soft classical music, lullabies or non-rhythmic instrumental background music is thought can reduce agitation and anxiety. OTs also suggest redirecting agitated patients to participate in a rhythmic activity such as singing, tapping or shaking percussion instruments, drumming or clapping.

4. Connection and Comfort Music: Sing-Along Classics
Songs with easy to remember lyrics that the patient may have learned in their youth can elicit strong responses. Music Therapist Rachel Rambach has compiled a list of 12 Songs Every Music Therapist Should Know.

When playing music, look for clues in the facial gestures and body language of patients to gauge the effect the song is having on their mood.

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