Healing Power of Music Therapy.
For Alzheimer’s patients, music can be good medicine.
“I’ve been a bad girl. Am I in trouble?” asks an obviously distraught Naomi. Tears begin to form in the corners of her eyes. She wrings her hands as she sits in her wheelchair in the lobby of an Alzheimer’s disease care facility.
“No, you’re not in trouble,” says recreational therapist Mindy Smith. But nothing seems to help Naomi’s mood. “I’ve been a bad girl,” she repeats over and over.
The Healing Power of Music Therapy. Brain Health & Wellness.
The Healing Power of Music Therapy
Then Mindy says, "Do you want your music?" Naomi's face brightens as headphones are gently placed over her ears. And as a big band arrangement of George Gershwin's " 'S Wonderful" flows from her iPod, Naomi begins to smile.
Scenes like this are being repeated in nursing facilities and homes across America. New research is confirming and expanding an idea long held by those who work with dementia patients: Music can not only improve the mood of people with neurological diseases, it can boost cognitive skills and reduce the need for antipsychotic drugs.
Music therapists who work with Alzheimer’s patients describe seeing people “wake up” when the sounds of loved and familiar music fills their heads. Often, after months or even years of not speaking at all, they begin to talk again, become more social and seem more engaged by their surroundings. Some begin to remember names long forgotten. Some even do what Alzheimer’s patients often cannot do as their disease worsens: They remember who they are.
Neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote in his book Musicophiliathat for Alzheimer’s patients, music can be very much like medicine. “Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and it can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.”
More than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, a disease for which there is no cure. One in 8 boomers will get the disease, according to estimates. About 15 million family members in the U.S. are locked in what can become a heartbreaking nightmare of taking care of a loved one with whom they can’t communicate. For many, music can be an important part of easing that suffering. Researchers are finding new ways to use music as part of the treatment of dementia.