Celebrating the magic of music for people with dementia on World Music Day

18 JUNE 2021

Celebrating the magic of music for people with dementia on World Music Day

A leading Charles Sturt University academic urges people to take the time on World Music Day to reflect on the meaning and significance of music in our lives and particularly the value of music for people with dementia.

Associate Professor of Nursing Maree Bernoth (pictured, inset) in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences said taking time to listen to the music you love is beneficial in so many ways.

In France, 1982 it was decided to dedicate a day to officially celebrate the wonders of music.

Now in 2021, that day is World Music Day on Monday 21 June, when we can take the time to reflect on the meaning and significance of music in our lives.

Earlier this month, ABC Classic radio devoted the entire weekend to music that listeners had determined they could not live without.

Listening to the experiences of those who shared the reason for the particular choice indicated that music has very strong links to memories, feelings, special occasions and special people.

Research has demonstrated that music reduces anxiety, distracts from pain and also improves sleep and mood.

Every area of the brain is impacted by music, making it an ideal therapy for those who have a cognitive impairment, such as dementia.

Music has the ability to have an impact no matter what area of the brain is ravaged by neurological changes.

Individuals who have lost verbal communication can still sing and remember words to songs.

It is a valuable way to maintain communication. Those who have played a musical instrument can retain that ability into the last stages of dementia.

An example is Don Burrows, the famous Australian jazz musician, who continued to play the clarinet, saxophone and flute despite his advanced dementia.

Recently, the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare published Australian research that demonstrated the value of music for people with dementia.

The researchers observed the impact of using headphones and playing an individualised playlist to a group of residents diagnosed with dementia.

They witnessed changes in facial expression, more relaxed demeanour and the reduction in anxiety and disturbed behaviour.

Playing music in a residential care facility also impacts the environment in general, making it a more relaxed and enjoyable place to work in and visit.

However, it must be acknowledged that music preferences are peculiar to the individual.

In an interview that is included in our textbook Healthy Ageing and Aged Care (Oxford University Press, 2016), a widow shared an example of an incident she experienced when her husband, John, who loved heavy metal music, was in palliative care.

She had provided a playlist of his favourite tracks for him, but she arrived in his room one day to find him extremely agitated.

A well-intentioned music therapist had removed the heavy metal and replaced it with a relaxation music selection.

John had lost his ability to verbally communicate, but he had not lost his appreciation of the music he had loved all of his adult life.

On World Music Day, this could be a lesson for us all. Along with your Advance Care Directive, start making your individualised playlist now.

Spend time listening to the music you love, it is beneficial in so many ways.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Maree Bernoth contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or news@csu.edu.au

Associate Professor Maree Bernoth is also a member of the Charles Sturt Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS).

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