Nothing Like Hearing Your Song: 10 Things You Should Know About the Benefits of Music Therapy for Dementia Patients


There's nothing like hearing your favorite song. It can remind you of younger years and fond memories.

A volunteer for a Detroit hospice agency for nearly 20 years, Velma Gocha often speaks of her "secret" methods used when visiting patients with dementia at nursing homes or in their own homes. The most effective is music. Sometimes she sings an old gospel hymn or plays music from a cell phone. She has witnessed patients open their eyes for the first time in weeks or hold a conversation after months of silence. For her, showing a little patience, and sharing a little music, works almost every time.

"Music transcends any issue or problem that may exist," said Gocha. "I've learned a lot of songs from the requests. Sometimes they may say, 'I don't know that song,' and then take it over. It's just another form of communication." Here are 10 things you should know about the benefits of music for dementia patients.

1. Provides avenue for social interaction between the patient and caregiver
2. It's a medium for verbal/non-verbal expression
3. Can help maintain cognitive and affective functioning
4. Music associated with positive memories will evoke a positive response
5. Use preferred music from late teens through early 30s
6. Try using an iPod or iPad with earphones
7. Lower keys (F3 to C5 for women and one octave lower for men)
8. Sheet music may be distracting. Only use when necessary.
9. Dancing allows intimacy between spouses or may be a fun exercise for your patient. Use precaution.
10. Be careful. Some patients may react adversely to loud noises