Singing is a powerful tool that can immediately transport you to another time and place. How many times have you sung a song only to remember a moment, even from many years ago, recalling everything that happened in perfect clarity?
These benefits are especially appealing for dementia patients, with numerous caregivers noticing how singing improves both their memory and mood, two crucial areas that dementia threatens.
How Singing Impacts the Brain
Singing is a powerful activity for those with dementia primarily because the areas of the brain responsible for singing and recalling music are some of the last affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia. The area of the brain responsible for singing is the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, and it is also associated with emotions and autobiographical memories.
The dorsal medial prefrontal cortex is highly stimulated when doing any music activity, singing included, which then also stimulates emotions and memories. Studies have found that when singing, memories are produced that help contribute to self-understanding, self-discovery, and identity. Additional studies have found that those who took part in regular singing or listening to music showed a significant improvement in memory and mood.
It’s not just those with dementia who benefit from singing, but also their caregivers. Not only does singing activate the caregiver’s emotions, but it is also rewarding to see a loved one or a client recall a memory that they previously could not access. Singing is an all-around mood boost that everyone can benefit from, so get to singing!
How Caregivers Can Encourage Singing for Dementia Patients
Music can have a surprising effect on those with dementia because of the connections in the brain between singing, memory, and mood. Some people may start to sing and dance to the music, while others can recount a time when they listened to the music when they previously could not recall that memory.
Not only does singing allow dementia patients to retrieve old memories, but music also helps both patient and caregiver create new memories. For those looking to see how singing can benefit your loved one, try incorporating some of the below tips.
Create a Playlist
One of the best things you can do for a loved one or client with dementia is ask their friends and family for suggestions of songs they once enjoyed. Use these suggestions to create a playlist full of music they once loved.
Incorporate Daily Singing
With a playlist compiled, caregivers should try and incorporate time with music and singing into the senior’s day. Invite friends and family over to sing with them and see what memories come to the surface. No matter what, having everyone together singing some old favorites will brighten the mood of everyone there. Those who receive in-home care may even enjoy singing with their CNA or Home Health Aide to further improve their mood and make the task of receiving daily healthcare more enjoyable.
Join a Singing Group
There are various singing groups that those with dementia can join, allowing them a way to socialize while also being immersed in the benefits of music and singing. In addition to the memory and mood benefits, being a part of a social group can help give them an outing to look forward to.
If someone you love has dementia, give singing a try and see how it can benefit not only them, but their family, caregivers, and home health aides!
Giving Voice. (2022). https://givingvoicechorus.org/
Mansouri, F., Acevedo, N., Illipparampil, R., Fehring, D., Fitzgerald, P., & Jaberzadeh, S. (2017). Interactive effects of music and prefrontal cortex stimulation in modulating response inhibition. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18119-x
What Is Dementia?. (2022). Retrieved 4 March 2022, from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia