Advice for family and professional carers at home – Music for Dementia
Advice for family and professional carers at home
Importantly, you don’t have to be a trained musician to help make music a part of the invaluable care you provide.
It’s much more about taking the time to have a conversation with the person you are with to find out if they would like to experience some music. If so, what is the music they love, how do they like to experience it, and when do they like to experience it? Music has the potential to be most impactful when it has been personalised and that also extends to the when and how of experiencing music.
It’s useful to hold in mind that people’s relationships with music are always evolving and changing. What might get a foot tapping today might bring a tear tomorrow. Stay tuned into that person and their reactions and responses when sharing music together.
In your day to day activities, could music help support and make daily tasks easier and more enjoyable by playing or singing the music the individual likes? For example, is there a song they like to wake up to? When providing personal care, is there a song which can distract or help to focus attention? When agitated or distressed is there a piece of music that can calm and reassure? Try to think of moments of the day when music might have a helpful role to play.
Some tips to consider before you start:
Is right now a good time for music or would another time be more appropriate?
Find the right music – find out what music is meaningful and significant to the person you are with
If possible, support choice making; try and offer a range of musical activities to choose from
Share the person’s preferences with other health and care professionals providing care so they are aware of the person’s choices
What type of musical experience would be most beneficial and appropriate? Would an interactive group activity be stimulating and enlivening or would listening sensitively to a playlist work best today?
Reactions and benefits
Be aware that musical choices will be connected to past experiences, which may trigger memories which might be accompanied with a range of responses and emotions. Music can elicit whole body responses, yet minimal movements can be full of meaning and expression. Engaging people living with dementia in singing and movement can reduce agitated behaviours and help to redirect attention.
Too much background or environmental noise can be distracting and cause sensory over-stimulation. For example, switch off the TV if you’re also going to listen to recorded music.
Familiar music can play a really important role but so too can unfamiliar music. Don’t limit someone’s sound world because of your likes and dislikes – try to keep an open ear.
Recorded music should be constant and not interrupted by commercials, news or commentary. This could cause confusion and disorientate the person listening to music. Try m4d Radio as an advert-free source of 24-hour music.
Music can be an excellent way to support care at home. There are a wide range of musical options to be enjoyed.