What is on your playlists? Yes, playlists. Ideally you will have several playlists, either formal or informal. Perhaps you have an internal jukebox that slips a 45 under the needle randomly based on your current situation. Saturday morning freedom has you humming Born to be Wild or Merry, Merry Month of May. Or perhaps you really don’t have music as a part of your life except during holidays.
Research suggests life with dementia is easier with music—for both care partners. Music and mood are integrally related. Consider weddings or proms. Dirges or complex instrumental pieces are rarely if ever a feature. Upbeat, romantic tunes make up the playlist.
Similarly, we can adjust our mood or our care partner’s mood with a choice of music. Research shows music and singing can encourage social interaction, reduce agitation and improve emotional states in individuals with dementia.1
Further research shows most of the studies of music and dementia have focused on the individual’s favorite music.2 Sometimes that is gathered from friends and family, sometimes simply trying different eras and types of music and watching your partner’s response gives you the info needed to develop a playlist. If your care partner does not respond to a tune, move to another one. Toe tapping, humming, singing along are all excellent signs of the song’s influence. That song is a keeper!
Perhaps you or your care partner have trouble sleeping, consider a sleep playlist, a white noise machine or a meditative nature playlist. Mornings can be slow. Consider the music your local grocery uses as retail research found music which would keep you moving, and happy.
When we speak of care partners—we speak of both the caregiver and the care recipient. Each of us are individuals, with individual memories, biographies and preferences. Waking up beside your spouse today is different than it was 10-30 years ago. Consider music which brings back memories of better days to help you meet today’s spouse with a smile. The mom you visit today is a whole lot different than the one you remember—what music makes that reality easier?
There are many apps available for you to conduct your own research. Develop a library of playlists, romantic, motivating, tranquilizing, or reflective. You choose what genre of music is necessary to make your world go around a bit easier.
1Gulliver A, Pike G, Banfield M, Morse AR, Katruss N, Valerius H, Pescud M, McMaster M, West S. The Music Engagement Program for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia: Pilot feasibility trial outcomes. Eval Program Plann. 2021 Mar 3;87:101930. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2021.101930. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33711690.
2Garrido S., Dunne L., Chang E., Perz J., Stevens C.J., Haertsch M. The use of music playlists for people with dementia: a critical synthesis. J. Alzheimer's Dis. : JAD. 2017;60(3):1129–1142.
per reviews 28 studies that used pre-recorded music with people with dementia using a critical interpretive synthesis model. Results revealed that pre-recorded music can be effective in reducing a variety of affective and behavioral symptoms, in particular agitation, even where a trained music therapist is not present.
3Garrido, Sandra et al. ‘Music and Dementia: Individual Differences in Response to Personalized Playlists’. 1 Jan. 2018 : 933 – 941.
Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s. Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia.