Music and Singing Can Benefit Patients with Dementia

Although dementia is prevalent among the older adult population, a recent study has found that singing or listening to music can be beneficial to older adults with this cognitive disease.  Many older adults that live in assisted living facilities and nursing homes suffer from dementia.  The illness not only affects cognitive abilities, but also mood and behavior. According to a new study conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland and published In the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the use of music can improve dementia care for patients in different stages of the disease.

“Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation,” says Dr. Teppo Sarkamo, lead author and expert in cognitive brain research, behavioral science and music research.  Dr. Sarkamo and his team found that singing benefits early stages of dementia and music listening, later stages.  Singing had the most benefit on working memory, executive function and orientation of patients with mild dementia and those under 80 years old.  Music listening had beneficial effects on the cognitive functioning of patients with more sever forms of dementia.  Moreover, the combination of singing and music listening was found to lessen depressive symptoms, especially in patients with mild Alzheimer’s-type dementia as opposed to standard care.  The study noted that patients did not need to have a musical background to reap the benefits.  Nursing homes and assisted living facility staff can integrate music and singing programs into the care they provide for their residents to enhance their cognitive wellbeing.