How to Use Music to Communicate with Your Loved One

If you’ve had the chance to see the lovely Disney movie, Coco, then you understand the power of music to reach even those in the deepest grips of dementia. The storyline of the movie has been born out in research and in many experiences; we’ve had with our residents at Sunshine Care. Music has a way of soothing turbulent emotions and reigniting old memories. It isn’t uncommon for a person who can no longer recognize their own family members to nonetheless happily sing all the lyrics to their favorite songs when the music starts playing. How can you use music to better communicate and connect with a loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia? Let’s look at some options.

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Experience Live Music

If your loved one is in an early stage of Alzheimer’s and is still relatively active, consider bringing them to a musical concert. The added visual aspects of seeing the musicians play their instruments and sing will give your loved one additional stimulation.

Not every type of outing is right for someone with Alzheimer’s. Loud rock concerts at crowded venues should be avoided, but consider the symphony or a band in a small venue that plays covers of your loved one’s favorite bands.

Home Concert

You don’t have to leave the house to create a fun musical activity. Consider putting on your own home concert. Family members can sing songs together. If anyone is musically inclined, have them sit down at the piano or pull out the old trumpet. Your loved one will get a thrill at the experience even if none of you should quit your day jobs anytime soon!

Let Your Family Member Join In

If your loved one is up to it, ask them to join in your concert. You might be surprised at how many lyrics they remember from their favorite songs. Consider giving them a simple instrument to play, like a tambourine. Even wooden spoons on a soup pot can add some fun to the proceedings. Sure, you won’t be the next opener for Katy Perry, but you’ll all have a lot of fun.

Play Recorded Music

Playing recorded music might not have the extra visual stimuli of live music, but the benefit is that you can play the songs at any time of the day and repeat your loved one’s favorite songs as many times as they want. Playing recorded music also allows you to choose the types of songs and bands that are personally meaningful to your loved one. Consider singing along and encouraging your loved one to sing along as well.

Put Together a Playlist

If your loved one doesn’t live with you, consider putting together a playlist and loading it onto a music playing device, like an iPod or even an old phone you aren’t using anymore. You can give this to your loved one’s caregivers. This music is a way for you to stay connected to your loved one even when you can’t be with them, and since music often improves a person’s mood and outlook, their caregivers will thank you for it too!

Understanding the Power of Music

At Sunshine Care, we understand the power of music and offer music therapy sessions for our residents each Friday. We also regularly invite local music groups to perform for our residents. Our residents really enjoy these activities! Take a look at our previous blog post about the power of music therapy to learn how music can positively affect individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Looking for more ways to connect with your loved one with dementia? We invite you to attend our free caregiver support group where you can get great advice from other families who are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Sign up to attend our next meeting.


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