Home music therapy for the caregiver

Posted by Courtney Larned

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Jul 15, 2014 11:00:00 AM

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It’s long been known that music has the ability to reach into recesses of the mind, even of dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Those long-ago favorite tunes can actually seem to bring life back to those people who spend long days in a mental prison.

Home healthcare givers whose loved one has dementia can become incredibly frustrated with watching an elderly parent fade away from them. For many, even routine social interaction in the home is curtailed by this depletion of mental function. Music is only one way to engage the patient, but it is among the most effective.

A brain-scan study has revealed that these reactions are centered in a part of the brain called the medial pre-frontal cortex, located just behind the forehead. "What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head," said Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California, Davis. "It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person's face in your mind's eye."

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Even more exciting, according to Janata, this brain region responded quickly to music signature and timescale, but also reacted overall when a tune was autobiographically relevant. Music tracking activity in the brain was even stronger during more powerful autobiographical memories. This research helps explain why even Alzheimer's patients who endure increasing memory loss can still recall songs from their distant past. And for many, the effects last up to several hours.

In Wisconsin, a government-sponsored project calledMemory and Music(we wrote about Dan Cohen's program back in early 2013) not only researches this phenomenon, but teaches and certifies therapists to utilize autobiographical music.Be sure to watch the fascinating video of Henry! Of course, not everyone responds as dramatically as he did.

You don’t have to send your loved one elsewhere to take advantage of music therapy. Since the research indicates an even stronger correlation between a favorable response and familiar, personalized music, you may be able help them at home. Surely you’ve made a “mixed tape” for yourself or a friend in the past. Try making one or two for the one you are caring for.

Research the music that was popular when they were just starting out as young adults. Those years are full of promise and anticipation for the future. Those songs will reach into the medial pre-frontal cortex and should stimulate memories of good things. If you want, include a group of songs from their childhood.

If you’re a bit nervous about the response, watch for negativity when certain songs are played. These can easily be deleted and you will end up with a group of tunes that will be not only enjoyable, but also therapeutic. That enjoyment won’t be restricted to your loved one, either, if you can watch a personality bloom again.

Caregiver duties can be incredibly overwhelming. Free up more time to be filling up your iPod with your loved one's tunes, and let us handle some of the administrative stuff. CareSync is a complete health solution that combines web and mobile applications with concierge services, including medical records retrieval and transcription, appointment booking, and other care coordination tasks. The CareSync apps are free to download and use - check them out on the iOS App Store or Google Play today!

If you'd like to learn more, just visit caresync.com or give us a call at 800.587.5227.

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Topics: caregivers

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