I’ve been known to carry a tune (or two) with my family. As a spectator of the music business, I witnessed early on the impact a song can have on a person. Whether it brings about smiles from memories past or tears from a haunting loss, the response to music is immediate. It’s the power of those responses that intrigues the medical community, particularly those working in skilled nursing. While research on the therapeutic benefits of music is relatively new, many patients are experiencing positive results.
Here are four reasons why music therapy is a hit in treating some of today’s more common illnesses.
1. Music controls symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia
A patient suffering from late stages of dementia often becomes agitated out of frustration and overstimulation from the inability to process the activities going on around them. But research has found that engaging patients in singing, rhythm playing, dancing, other structured music activities can diffuse this behavior and redirect their attention.
2. Music and physical exercise = the perfect duet
Much like a little Justin Bieber gets your toes tappin’, adding music to physical exercise is a great strategy for seniors, as well. “Of course, there are physical disabilities that influence which exercises are appropriate,” Alicia Ann Clair, PhD, MT-BC, director of music education and therapy at the University of Kansas/Lawrence, says. “But physical functions that have been lost due to lack of activity can be restored through an appropriate exercise program.” And it’s never too late to begin. Clair adds that even those who become physically frail can benefit from exercise. That’s where music can come in.
Related link: Best exercise for older adults.
3. Music reinforces social interaction
If you crank up the music—they will come. “We are so excited to be a Music & Memory Certified Organization. We know that music lightens the atmosphere and creates a relaxing, positive vibe for our staff and residents. Personalizing music to meet our resident and patient’s needs will only enhance the care we provide.” TJ Hendriksen, executive director of Legend Oaks Healthcare and Rehabilitation of West San Antonio, said.
Shawna Epstein, a health writer on seniors, says that music lifts the spirits of listeners and promotes a greater sense of life and living. “Music therapy is like food for the soul. It can bring joy to the heart and fresh air to the lungs. Singing songs and letting rhythm move both body and mind to better health and happiness is a therapy that is free.”
4. Music helps battle depression
Name your favorite artist from the happiest time of your life. When you hear one their songs, it triggers memories from that time. Therapists take power from those triggers and use it to strengthen treatment for depression. “There is evidence that music therapy may increase responsiveness to antidepressant medications,” wrote Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D. She also referred to a study that showed music therapy might lead to reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, particularly in adult women.
Related link: Here are simple ways to battle depression
If your current treatment strategies are falling flat with patients, music therapy is an effective and affordable way to improve emotional, cognitive and speech skills while maintaining physical and social abilities.
This article was originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.