AUDITORY STIMULATION FOR ALZHEIMER’S
Music is everywhere
Music is everywhere
Our ears provide many if not most of us with our second most vibrant source of sensory stimulation. Our eyes allow us to enjoy the paintings of Rembrandt and the sculpture of Michelangelo. Our ears, on the other hand, allow us to share in the genius of Mozart and Beethoven and Lennon. But other sounds are music to our ears as you know if you have awakened to a symphony of birds on a spring morning, or if you’ve happened upon a rushing stream on a walk through a forest.
Auditory stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia is effective for mood enhancement, relaxation, and cognition; just as it is for everyone else. The calming effects of music, for instance, are well known. Farmers play music to their cows, and the cows produce more and better milk. Music makes plants grow larger and healthier; at least according to some studies. Music is good for living things including people. In fact, Music Therapy is proving to be an effective Alternative Therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
And it’s not just music that benefits people with dementia (and everyone else, as well). The sound of water, from a babbling brook or an artificial waterfall, is to the ear what a camp fire is to the eye. Bird songs are being studied to determine just how positively they effect the human brain.
Natural sounds are probably the best for mood and meditation. A gentle rain, or the wind blowing through pine trees, can work magic. To stimulate cognition, a Mozart symphony is probably better. And the music that the Alzheimer’s patient enjoyed when he or she was younger is best to stimulate reminiscence. Therefore, a variety of sound stimulation is important.
Sound does not have to be pleasing or melodic to be effective. Rattles and other percussion musical instruments are also good, especially if the person with dementia is playing them. The physical activity and the stimulation of listening to and following a rhythm both add to the benefits of the passive auditory stimulation. Even “white noise” has been shown to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients.
Sound stimulation can be used in various ways and with various effects, and can augment other fun and beneficial activities.
Music and Memory
In her column, Your Health, in USA Today, Kim Painter shared a letter written to her by one of her readers:
She wrote: “A volunteer would come to Dad’s nursing home, attired in a straw hat and suspenders, with a banjo, to engage the residents in a sing-along session. My dad always sang the loudest, with great gusto, and despite his memory deficits, he knew the lyrics almost perfectly to the old-time popular songs of the ’30s and ’40s. … My dad was happy then. … It was as if this music brought him back to a realm of cognitive lucidity and anchored him in a firm time and place.”
Kim Painter, USA Today, 7/24/2006
It’s almost as if Ms. Tomaino was watching that woman’s father when she wrote:
It is always remarkable to watch a person completely removed from the “present” due to a disease such as Alzheimer’s.. come to life when a familiar song is played. The person’s response may vary from a change in posture to animated movement: from a sound to verbal response. But usually there is a response, an interaction. Many times these seemingly disparate responses can reveal much about the preservation of self and the intact personal stories that may still remain.(Tomaino 2000, p. 195)
Tomaino, C. M. Working with images and recollection with elderly patients. In Music Therapy in Dementia Care (pp. 195-211). D. Aldridge (Ed.). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers