Music Therapy Brings Out the Best in Patients with Dementia and Alzheimer's

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In recent years, music therapy has become more popular, especially as a tool to reach those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, music therapy is not only beneficial to people in these groups. Ann Dinsmore, supervisor of music therapy at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, outlines the various ways in which music therapy can have a positive impact on a majority of aging adults.

Music is always a bridge. If you provide the right music in the right way at the right time, there can be a connection.

Music therapy is one of the most effective integrative therapies for aging adults, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

“Music is always a bridge,” Ann Dinsmore, supervisor of music therapy at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, said. “If you provide the right music in the right way at the right time, there can be a connection.”

Dinsmore tells the story of a woman with dementia she worked with who appeared minimally responsive except for during her music therapy sessions, when she would get up and dance with her husband. For that moment in time, she remembered who he was.

Music therapy accomplishes individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship, and can include interventions like music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, learning through music and movement to music.

Dinsmore works with a variety of residents at Masonic Village, and is a firm believer that music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements. For those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because the rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing.

In her 18th year of providing music therapy for Masonic Village residents, Dinsmore oversees four board-certified music therapists. Her father’s work as a prison and state hospital chaplain showed her the healing powers of music and inspired her entry into this field.

“By singing, we tap into music’s healing power and fill our bodies with good vibrations, and dancing has proved better than walking, swimming, or cycling at protecting against dementia,” she said. “Music just makes us feel.”

With locations in Dallas, Elizabethtown, Lafayette Hill, Sewickley and Warminster, the not-for-profit Masonic Villages provide continuing care retirement services, children’s services and community outreach services throughout Pennsylvania.

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Debra L. Davis
@MasonicVillages
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