The Sound of Music – iPods and Dementia

Sitting in the park on a recent summer night, listening to a local band playing the music I danced to as a teen I started to sing along. Singing isn’t something I normally do unless I’m alone in the car with the windows rolled up. I firmly believe it’s best for everyone and if you ever heard me sing you would surely agree.

I felt safe singing in the open air, joining others like me overcome with the joy and nostalgia of our shared musical history. Before long the band ramped things up and went into a medley of rock songs. Soon people were on their feet dancing.   A little one, barely able to walk, moved to the beat, her tiny legs bouncing as she clapped with glee. Standing beside her, her grandparent’s did the same.

“More!” She said when the music stopped. Her grandparents agreed.

The song playing that night may have become imprinted on her memory, just as it had on mine years before. Many years from now I hope she hears it and feel the same freedom she did that night.  Music speaks to us at every age and the music of our youth carries us back in time like nothing else can. I once told my husband that when my generation gets old, instead of the songs of the forties and fifties heard in nursing homes now, the place will be rocking to the music of the Beatle’s and the Rolling Stones. Women and men will smile as they remember holding their sweetheart while dancing to love tunes like My Special Angel by the Vogues or My Girl by the Temptations.

I didn’t realize when I said it how true it would turn out to be and how the music of the past can enhance the lives of the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and patients with Parkinson’s disease.

My father-in-law was extremely introverted due to his long history of mental illness. When Parkinson’s disease and dementia entered the picture things got worse. He often went days barely speaking and could become quite suspicious and hostile. One thing that always calmed him and brought him out of his shell, at least for a while, was listening to opera. A special favorite of his was Andrea Bocelli. As soon as he would hear Bocelli begin to sing his posture would change. Normally quite rigid in expression and movement he would relax. First his shoulders would move  down away from his ears and his fingers, so often curled, would rest open on his knees. Then the smile would come and he’d begin to speak of life in Italy and the days spent with his family there. He was a lighter, happier version of himself. The effects of the music usually lasted long after he indicated he’d heard enough. It was as if he became a bit of the man he once was and each time it happened it was a gift for him and for us.

I was delighted to find out we were not alone in this discovery. Watch the following video and be amazed at what the sound of music can do,

An article in the LA Times by reporter Susan King dated July 21, 2014 titled, ‘Alive Inside’  also illustrates music’s joyous power for dementia patients and shares information on how music helps reawaken memories and emotions in dementia patients. To read the complete article click here:

An iPod is one way to provide music for your loved one. The organization, Music and Memory has a program titled: Help Spread the Music and Give New Life to Someone You Love.

Part of the mission of the program is to collect donations to provide funding for iPods for nursing homes and care facilities. Information on the website states in part:

At MUSIC & MEMORY℠, we help elders in care facilities suffering from a wide range of cognitive and physical challenges find renewed meaning and connection in their lives through the gift of personalized music. No one wants to end up alone and isolated in a nursing home. It’s hard enough to lose someone you love to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. It’s terrifying to think you could end up there yourself, someday.

For more information on this wonderful program go to:

I often hear from caregivers whose loved ones wander at night or become combative when sundowning. Listening to music may help ease these behaviors making life easier for them and their loved ones.

More information on music and dementia can be found on the following websites.

If you have an experienced the benefit of music with a loved one I ‘d love to hear about. Please contact me via the form below.

Caregiver Cover WebClick here to purchase




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