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Music Therapy for Dementia Care: Benefits, Process, and Music


A woman is sitting in a library with headphones on and smiling with her hands in the air to exemplify music therapy in dementia care.

Music has a unique ability to elicit emotions and reawaken memories. Music therapy has partnered with this potential in the field of healthcare, particularly in dementia care.

Dementia is a complex neurological disorder characterized by memory loss, cognitive decline, and emotional difficulties. However, music therapy appears to be a potential way to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia.


Benefits of Music Therapy in Dementia Care


Music therapy has a significant impact on people with dementia, providing emotional, cognitive, and social support. It has been found to increase mood, reduce tension and anxiety, stimulate memory recall, and improve communication abilities. Music has the ability to delve deep into a person's past, eliciting memories and feelings that aren’t often brought up. This can result in more involvement, better self-expression, and a stronger sense of connection with others.


Examples of What a Session Can Look Like


Imagine a music therapy session in the main room of a neighbourhood unit at a senior care facility. The certified music therapist starts by asking the group about their favourite songs from their childhood, establishing a nostalgic ambiance. They then play a popular song from their era. Participants begin tapping their feet and humming along as familiar music fills the room. A few people even offer stories about the song, which sparks talks and laughter. The session continues with interactive interventions such as rhythm exercises, movement and music, and simple instrument playing, which promotes physical engagement and social contact.


Where Does It Take Place


Often for music therapy, group sessions are held in the main common areas as an ease to bring the residents together. Individual sessions are often held in their rooms or in a quiet room by the nursing stations.


An older woman wearing a beige cardigan is sitting in a chair. A younger woman in a brown sweater has her arm around her. They are looking at each other and smiling. This is used to exemplify music therapy for dementia.

Types of Music Therapy Experiences/Interventions


MIYA Creative Care's name includes the phrase "creative care." Each music therapist offers their unique style to elder care facilities, hospitals, and in-home care, genuinely tailoring it to the requirements of the seniors and the atmosphere of the various care homes. Bell Choir, Men's Group, Women's Group, Intergenerational Group, Glee Club, Songwriting Group, and even Music History Discussion Groups are just some examples of these unique music therapy experiences. The primary purpose of the group sessions is to cultivate a sense of community.


Individual sessions benefit from more personalized attention and can be adapted to specific needs. Receptive (listening to music) to active (singing and playing instruments) experiences are the more common music therapy experiences. Music therapists may use live music, pre-recorded music, or even encourage clients to compose their own music.


Here’s a list of 10 songs I found to spark the most nostalgia:

  1. Blue Skies” - Irving Berlin

  2. You Are My Sunshine” - Jimmie Davis

  3. Que Sera Sera” - Doris Day

  4. What a Wonderful World” - Louis Armstrong

  5. Somewhere Over the Rainbow” - Judy Garland

  6. Home on the Range” - Frank Sinatra

  7. Blueberry Hill” - Fats Domino

  8. My Wild Irish Rose” - Keith Jarrett

Connect with MIYA Creative Care to learn more about how to bring music therapy into your organization or to connect a certified music therapist with your loved one today.


Written by Steffi Ching.



References for further reading


Guétin, S., Portet, F., Picot, M. C., Pommié, C., Messaoudi, M., Djabelkir, L., ... & Touchon, J. (2009). Effect of music therapy on anxiety and depression in patients with Alzheimer's type dementia: randomised, controlled study. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 28(1), 36-46.


McDermott, O., Crellin, N., Ridder, H. M., & Orrell, M. (2013). Music therapy in dementia: a narrative synthesis systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 28(8), 781-794.


Särkämö, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, A., Soinila, S., Mikkonen, M., ... & Hietanen, M. (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after a middle cerebral artery stroke. Brain, 131(3), 866-876.



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