The public’s knowledge of music therapy has grown leaps and bounds! Now, when I mention my work with adults with dementia, I am asked if I get the client to sing along to songs as opposed to just playing music for them.

While it may not seem like much, this is a huge step in the right direction! The focus is less on what I do, and more what my interaction and interventions get them to do!

While work on cognitive skills is very important, and many goals related to it can be met by singing an old favorite song, what else do music therapists focus on in their world with those with dementia?

Anxiety and Aggression: Music Therapists can assist in the de-escalation of an already anxious or aggressive adult, or be utilized for a particular event (like a bath or medical procedure) to help keep anxiety low. Some studies have even shown a residual effect of lowered anxiety and aggression after music therapy participation.

Social Interaction: Music Therapy provides a wonderful opportunity for those with dementia to interact, both in a group and individual setting. Music provides a natural backdrop for social interaction, requiring attention to others to participate in even the smallest amount. Not to mention the laughs and comments that tend to fly around after a song is finished.

Motor Skills: Everyone needs to move. The isolation often experienced by those with dementia often includes a sharp downturn in physical activity. Maintaining motor skills are vital to an adult’s ability to participate in social functions, and can easily be addressed with instruments and movement activities.

Emotional Expression: At all stages of dementia and in moments of clarity and otherwise, emotions are important and need to be addressed. Adults with dementia can find themselves flooded by emotions that they are unsure of the cause and have difficulty controlling. Music Therapy allows the client to address their feelings in a safe environment, and to express them through a variety of methods: songwriting, instrument playing, or discussing a song (among others).

For the past few months, I’ve been overjoyed to see the growth of a general knowledge of music therapy! Are you seeing the same in your area? What are some of the areas I missed for adults with dementia? If you have a loved one with dementia, what do you think they need assistance with? Let me know in the comments!