Benefits of Music Therapy for Patients With Alzheimer’s

12Oaks-Smiling elderly lady and daughter listening to music together-ss-Benefits of Music Therapy for Patients With Alzheimer’s-Feature

In This Article

Alzheimer’s – the disease that causes a progressive deterioration in recalling events and carrying out normal functions like talking or walking – has yet to have a cure.

While scientists are looking into eliminating Alzheimer’s by correcting the affected areas of the brain, psychotherapists are working on an intervention that can potentially alleviate the detrimental impact of the disease.

This approach, known as ‘Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s,’ exploits the psychological effects of music through upbeat or soothing melodies to improve the emotional and physical capacities of Alzheimer’s patients.


Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s: An Additional Intervention for Dementia Management

Music and the Human Brain

12Oaks-Cheerful senior woman listening to music at a playground-ss-Music and the Human Brain

Do you ever reminisce about a beautiful memory that happened years ago as you listen to a song you once loved?

As Carpenters have in their song “Just like before. It’s yesterday once more,” catching a familiar rhythm makes you feel like you’re indulging in the beautiful past again. It’s because music can trigger emotions and memories far in bygone days.

Music can do this because the areas of the brain that control language, moods, emotions, and movement can be stimulated through melodies. Also, the last brain parts to degrade due to dementia are those influenced by music. So it makes sense that Alzheimer’s patients can recall memories from many decades in the past thanks to it.

Listening to music causes a noticeable change in an Alzheimer’s patient. They may cheer up and become more attentive to their surroundings. They may also sing, dance, or clap their hands. It’s because music surpasses the brain’s lack of response and allows the brain to react actively by commanding the body to clap, sway, or hum.


Benefits of Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Evoke Emotions and Memories

12Oaks-Smiling senior woman holding cup in rocking chair near interracial friends dancing in nursing home-ss-Benefits of Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Later in Alzheimer’s, your loved one may lose their ability to express affection. However, if exposed to music, they can still make emotional gestures, like dancing or swaying.

The ability to give emotional hints means music can emotionally stimulate the patients. In contrast, if your loved one feels agitated, they may respond strongly to soothing music.

Music can also help retrieve the lost recollections deep inside the patient’s brain. Songs that were popular when a person was in young adolescence can encourage the best reaction. But be cautious of overstimulation. Avoid playing loud music when your loved one needs some peace to rest.


Encourage Physical Movement

On top of the loss of emotional capacity and memories, patients may also find it challenging to carry out movements, like walking or taking the stairs. Unfortunately, this physical deterioration is frequent, especially in those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.

Music can catalyze intentional movements, such as clapping, swaying, or dancing. This exercise can also assist the patient in regaining strength and balance, reducing the risk of falling, and improving motor function in the therapeutic environment.


Control the Behavioral Symptoms

Music therapy can assist in alleviating the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including verbal or physical outbursts and hallucinations, after at least five sessions.

Without side effects, music therapy is a better treatment for behavioral symptoms than drugs (antidepressants). Music therapy is also less expensive than pharmaceutical treatments for managing the disease long-term as it progresses.


Increase Fluency in Verbal Tasks

In the later stages, patients may become disconnected from their surroundings and lose the capacity to interact verbally and converse with others.

Therefore, verbal communication isn’t always the best option for dementia. Instead, body language takes center stage when attempting to provide the person with a comfortable conversation. The incorporation of music is ideal since it allows for a fresh approach to boosting good interactions and social connections.

A former ballet dancer reacts to music – Source: WXYZ Detroit.

However, the positive effects of music therapy tend to be temporary, lasting no longer than three months after the end of treatment. Besides, not all patients may benefit equally from music therapy, with those who were once musicians or had a stronger personal connection to music gaining more significant benefits.


Music Programs for Alzheimer’s


12Oaks-senior woman and daughter listening music with headphone in backyard-ss-Music Programs for Alzheimer’s

The MUSIC & MEMORY® program is the most well-recognized music therapy, and many psychologists have acknowledged its efficacy in numerous studies.

This program has assisted in raising awareness of music therapy for Alzheimer’s. It teaches family caregivers and nursing home staff how to make and deliver customized playlists using iPods or mp3 devices. As a result, this program helps people with Alzheimer’s reconnect to the outside world through memories triggered by music.

The MUSIC & MEMORY® program was also under investigation for treating dysphagia. Scientists found that this program improves swallowing, reduces choking, improves nutritional status, and improves the quality of life.



Alive Inside is a 2014 film that claims that music activates more parts of our brain than any other triggers on our motions and emotions.

The film describes that the last parts of the affected brain are those responsible for our emotions, moods, and movement. For example, one woman featured in the film had long relied on a walker but could dance without it when she heard a song from her youth.

Alive Inside emphasizes the power of music, particularly music from one’s youth, and how it can affect people unable to interact in traditional ways.


Carrying Out Music Therapy

Listen to Meaningful Songs

12Oaks-Senior man listening music in headphones-ss-Carrying Out Music Therapy

When it comes to fostering positive interactions, music selection is essential. Find a piece of music that was a part of your loved one’s life as an adolescent or young adult.

If you’re unsure which songs are most meaningful to them, try creating an online music playlist from when they were young adults. After that, watch out for their responses to particular songs as you compile a personalized playlist.


Sing Individually or in Groups

It’s hard to encourage an Alzheimer’s patient to follow a melody since the ability of their brain to memorize lyrics and produce language has declined significantly.

However, in the early stage, when your loved one can still respond to musical clues, stir up their surroundings sometimes by initiating a song and making them sing along. Both individual and group singing can evoke emotions and motions.


Participate in Music Making

You don’t need to be a musician to make a simple piece of music. Instead, try simplifying an existing song and make it easier for your loved one to follow.

This way, your loved one may find it more effortless to be involved in the therapy. Praising and giving a reward when your loved one succeeds in participating in the session is also a good idea. Try to encourage them to appreciate their music, too. Acknowledging their result may increase their awareness of being a part of the therapy.


Work With a Music Therapist

A music therapist can understand your loved one’s condition and work out a plan to improve their quality of life through music. They will start with assessing the medical history and personal preferences to design a personalized treatment plan.

Participants in a music therapy session may engage in sing-along sessions, breathing exercises, and other movements, like dancing or swaying to the music. If the patient is in the later stages of the disease, a music therapist can even play music for them.


Choosing Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s at 12 Oaks

12 Oaks Senior Living Communities have been fostering the emotional life and overall well-being of many senior residents through various all-around therapies, one of which is music therapy for Alzheimer’s.

Music is a part of everyone’s life, and so is it in seniors’. With music, we make our residents’ lives a better place. From hosting singing sessions where everyone sings together to teaching seniors how to enjoy and appreciate music, we include everything in our Memory Care Plan to ensure seniors recapture their vibrant past lives at their second home.


If you have questions about music therapy for Alzheimer’s or any conditions here, connect with us and learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for questions or to schedule a personalized tour. 


At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit.


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