Feb 4, 2013

Music and Reducing Agitation in Alzheimer's Patients

Don't let Alzheimer's disease agitation take control of your life. Change the pattern, substitute in something that changes the dynamic, and blow those worries away.

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 


Billy Holiday
Today I was talking to someone that asked me what they could do when their loved one living with dementia became agitated. I could give a long list of suggestions that would include exercise, eating a Mediterranean diet, and getting plenty of bright light.

But in the case being described I mentioned music. There are plenty of small studies indicating that music can reduce agitation in AD patients, and a lot of anecdotal evidence that music enlivens Alzheimer's patients. Either calms patients or enlivens patients. Makes patients happy and brings out the more there.

There are of course many levels of agitation. So here I am using the word agitation to mean: stirred up, excited, tense, confused, or irritable.

I also get asked what music should I use. This is a good question. In a recent conversation with Rudy Tanzi he mentioned that most people develop their musical tastes between the ages of 16 and 30. As we get older we tend to stop listening to new music, and instead we listen to and enjoy music from our own "era".

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A good example would be the time Dotty started singing a Ghost of a Chance. Ghost of a Chance was written in 1932 that would have made Dotty 16 years old. It was first sung and made famous by Billie Holiday. Later it was modernized and re-recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Well I never heard it, or remembered hearing it.

At the time when Dotty started singing the song I was stunned. In fact, I couldn't believe it. So the next day I went to YoutTube, found the song, and sat Dotty down in front of the computer. I started the song and Dotty started singing. I clicked the stop button on the YouTube video and Dotty just kept on singing. Odd, but it took this effort to believe Dotty actually sung the words of the song in the first place.

From that day forward I started putting Singers and Swing music channel on the television while Dotty was relaxing. Sure enough Dotty would start singing away, and yes, sometimes she would start singing a song I never heard. It amazed me then, and I still amazed writing about.

Another good method of calming AD patients is to find out what songs they like and then start singing it. Dotty would join in every time, and sometimes she would keep on singing on her own. And better yet, sometimes Harvey, our toy repeat parrot, would sing right along with Dotty.

It seemed to me that over time the addition of music to our daily routine made Dotty happier, calmer, and often more there.

Thing about. Have you ever heard a song on the radio or on television that put you into your own personal WayBac machine and reminded you a happy time during your youth?

Well Alzheimer's patients had a youth and often they can remember things from way back when even though they can't remember anything that happened today or yesterday.

Start singing, start playing the music from their era, and then come back here in a few weeks and tell us if you saw any difference.

Don't let AD agitation take control of your life. Change the pattern, substitute in something that changes the dynamic, and blow those worries away.

We have a ton of articles on music in the Alzheimer's Reading Room knowledge base. Use the search box on the right hand side of the page to find the information you are looking for, and to find more on the topic - music.

I'm listening to the Singers and Swing music channel right now for the first time in a long time.

Far out.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room