Are you caring for someone with dementia? Have you noticed that they often have bad moods and suffer from confusion, anger, sadness and apathy? The good news is that a new study shows that music improves moods of patients with dementia.
Why Music Improves our Mood
Studies show that when we hear music, the pleasure centers in our brain release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that make us feel happy. The brain can even anticipate the most pleasurable peaks in familiar music and prime itself with an early dopamine rush.
Music and Patients with Dementia
The study was led by Jay Ford, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy. The researchers partnered with Generation Connect, a company that develops mobile software for use in home care. The company trained caregivers to use tablets together with their patients. Caregivers were able to personalize how dementia patients interacted with the tablets. They listened to music together and also looked at family photos. The caregivers were asked to rate their care recipients’ moods before and after using the tablet for more than 1,000 sessions. They found that half of the dementia patients who used tablets loaded with apps for photos and music, and common apps such as YouTube, saw improvements in their moods.
The results aren’t surprising. A different study by Dan Cohen, a social worker, showed that music not only puts patients with dementia into a better mood, it also helps them to share their memories. Cohen began by asking the patient’s family to list the songs or instrumental pieces that the person once enjoyed. He then created an individualized playlist on an MP3 player for the patient. Depending on the person, the music Cohen recorded ranged from jazz to rock to classical. Then Cohen gave the MP3 to the resident. And the results were always surprising. Some people, who had seemed unable to speak, started to sing and dance to the music. Others began to speak about when and where they had listened to that music. The music opened the doors to the residents’ memories. It seems that listening to music doesn’t only put you in a good mood, it reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward.
Tablets improve Moods of Caregivers Too
Caregivers of dementia patients are often family members who have little formal training to cope with the stress of caring for a loved one. As a result, they too suffer from bad moods. This study showed that the caregivers too benefited from the sessions. Especially when they felt that the time spent together made their loved ones feel better.
Caregivers found that if they played some music and then looked at family photos, their loved ones came away with better moods. If however, they just played games together, there was no improvement in mood. So if you find that you and your loved one are struggling with negative emotions, use a tablet loaded with music and family photos to bring smiles to your faces.