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Music has amazing power, especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have shown that listening to familiar music can significantly improve
mood and alertness, reduce agitation, and can help with a number of behavioral
issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages
of Alzheimer’s a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song
Sitting and listening to music together can also provide a way for you and your
dad to connect and bond with your mom, even after she stops recognizing your
names and faces. Here are a few tips to help you create a music therapy program
for your mom.
Create a Playlist
Your first step is to identify the music that’s familiar and enjoyable
to your mom. Does she like jazz, classical or Frank Sinatra? What songs make
her want to get up and dance? Then go back to the era when she was a teenager
through her early 20s. Research shows that music during this time period seems
to get the best response and triggers the most memories.
If you need some help creating a playlist, the Institute for Music and Neurologic
Function provides a suggested list of top songs by era and genre on its website
at musictherapy.imnf.org – click on “Outpatient Services,” then
on “Top 10’s For Memory.”
The website pandora.com will also tailor a radio station to match your mom’s
musical taste when you select an artist, song or genre. And musicandmemory.orgoffers a free guide to creating a personalized playlist.
You can also get help from a music therapist. The American Music Therapy Association
offers a national directory of more than 6,000 therapists at musictherapy.org
to help you find someone in your area.
To keep things fresh, it’s best to create a diverse playlist of numerous
artists, with no more than five to 10 songs per artist. It’s also important
to keep tweaking their playlist. Every week or so, ask your mom which songs she
likes and which ones are just so-so. Remove the so-so ones, and build on the
successful ones so you end up with 100 or 200 songs that all resonate.
There are a number of ways you can deliver your mom’s favorite music: a
digital listening device, CD player, a computer or tablet, or even an old record
player. If you don’t have any music and are on a tight budget, check with
your local public library. It may have CD selections you can check out.
Digital listening devices like an iPod or MP3 player are the most convenient
and widely used options among music therapists for delivering music, because
they’re easy to add and remove songs from.
The $49 Apple iPod Shuffle (apple.com/ipod-shuffle), and $40 SanDisk Sansa Clip
MP3 Player (sandisk.com) that require headphones, and the $60 Peabod SweetPea3
MP3 Player (sweetpeatoyco.com) which has an external speaker, are three excellent
devices that are extremely simple to use and very affordable.
Another option to consider for listening to music together is through an Internet
radio service like spotify.com and rhapsody.com. These services will let you
create a customized playlist (for free or a small monthly subscription fee) that
your mom and you can listen to via computer, mobile device, home entertainment
system, or a home Internet radio like the $180 Logitech UE Smart Radio (ue.logitech.com),
which is a great alternative that’s simple to use and compatible with most
online radio services.
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