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Music Therapy for Dementia: How Memory Programs Decrease Use of Medication

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
3 minute readLast updated February 28, 2024

Music has a strong impact on us all. It can take us back to a different place and time and spark old emotions and memories. The same is true for people living with dementia. Research suggests that personalized music and memory therapy can lessen the need for medication and help handle some of the difficult behaviors linked to dementia.

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How music therapy helps dementia symptoms in older adults

A comprehensive review of studies published in the medical journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy between 2012 and 2022 found that music and memory therapy can improve symptoms of dementia better than nonmusical care.[01]
This review was the largest done to date when it comes to evaluating studies on the effects of individualized music therapy for dementia patients. It sifted through 144 studies; the eight highest-quality studies involved 689 people, with ages ranging from 60 to 87 years old. Of these studies, four were in Europe (two in France and two in Spain), three in Asia (two in China and one in Japan), and one in the USA, bringing a wide range of perspectives.
The review of these studies found that music therapy, which includes both live music sessions and personal music playlists, can help lift the mood and lessen agitation in those with Alzheimer’s. This is a real improvement for seniors and caregivers alike, as feeling happier and calmer can make a big difference in the daily life of someone with dementia.
One of the key points of the review was how music therapy can improve brain functions. Music therapy can help your parent remember things better, think more clearly, and even improve their ability to use words effectively. These improvements are crucial for someone struggling with dementia symptoms.
The review also talks about a study that compared different types of music therapy. It turns out that active music therapy, where one actively engages with the music, can be even more effective than just listening to music. This type of therapy showed significant improvements in participants’ memory and behavior.

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Benefits of music therapy for dementia

As a caregiver, this comprehensive review offers hope. It shows that music therapy for dementia can be a powerful tool when helping your parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Music therapy is a gentle, enjoyable way to support your loved one’s mental health and memory, adding a bit of joy to their day.
Below are just a few of the additional advantages of dementia music therapy:

Bringing back memories

Music therapy can help seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s remember things more precisely. Familiar songs can bring back old memories, helping your loved ones connect to their past and who they are. Music therapy can also be made to fit each person’s likes and needs, making it a special kind of care that puts your aging parent’s needs first.

Sharing feelings

Dementia can make it hard for seniors to share how they feel, leaving them upset and alone. Music therapy helps your loved one with dementia express their thoughts and feelings, even when memory loss gets in the way. Plus, music can help them calm down by decreasing worry and restlessness. Calm music, in particular, can create a peaceful space, helping with more challenging behavior issues.

Being social

Joining group music sessions can help seniors with dementia socialize, especially those who don’t interact much otherwise. Music therapy for dementia helps your loved one enjoy sharing feelings, being social, and feeling less anxious, ultimately improving their overall quality of life. Music therapy is also a source of happiness, comfort, and a chance to connect with others, which is essential for older adults with dementia.

Better movement and sleep

Drumming, dancing, or even clapping to the beat of music can help your loved one with dementia improve movement skills and coordination. This helps to keep them active and is fun, making music therapy a well-rounded approach to exercising with dementia. Calm music sessions before bed can also lead to better sleep, which also improves overall health.

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The future of music therapy and dementia

Incorporating alternative therapies for dementia, such as music therapy, as outlined above, is a step toward more patient-centered care. By continuing to explore and employ music therapy activities for dementia, there’s a greater opportunity to provide a better, more enjoyable quality of life for seniors with decreased cognitive abilities.


  1. Bleibel, M., El Cheikh, A., Sadier, N.S., & Abou-Abbas, L. (2023, March 27). The effect of music therapy on cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

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OurParents Staff

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