COMMUNITY LIVING SERVICES:
Music Soothes the Soul
By Eva Veitch, Director, Community Living Services, Region 10
THE UPCOMING HOLIDAYS can be a difficult time for many of us, often bringing on feelings of sadness especially in the elderly, but there are things we can all do to help. Many studies have been done about the positive impact of music therapy. Music effects the same pleasure centers as food, sex and drugs and can increase processing speed and episodic memory.
Musical emotion and memory can survive long after other memory has disappeared. Internal rhythms speed up or slow down to become one with the music. It evokes individual emotions but also improves interpersonal relationships. The best news is that it is free, easy and a great way to connect with others.
It appears that for elders with memory loss, instrumental music can alter mood and decrease stress; lyrics can be distracting unless it is the preferred music of the listener. I have had the privilege of working with many elders in long term care communities. I have always been surprised at how effective music can be for calming the agitation and anxiety that those with memory loss often experience, the results with other illnesses and disabilities is also impressive. I had a patient who had
suffered a debilitating stroke leaving him with aphasia (the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage). He and I worked on nonverbal communication for months before we became proficient and went on to have a wonderfully rewarding relationship. He was able to speak just a few words and was not able to put a sentence together so you can imagine my surprise when I found out he could sing the songs of his life!
It turns out that different parts of the brain are affected by illness or trauma and familiar music memories can be one of the things to survive. Many nursing homes have music therapy programs and use iPod to improve the quality of life for their residents. Next time you are feeling anxious turn on some familiar music and pay attention to how your mood changes. It’s magical. This is a great time of year to use music to strengthen all relationships but especially those with elders. If you are interested in learning more about this topic check out musicandmemory.org.