An affordable and evidence-based aide in dementia care

Carol Liu
October 18, 2021

More than 6 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia in the United States. In 2050, that number is projected to increase to nearly 14 million. Dementia is one of the costliest conditions to society, with seniors with dementia requiring twice as many hospital stays per year compared to other seniors. To address the behavioural problems present with dementia, both pharmacological and nonpharmacological solutions are often used to relieve patient and caregiver stress. At times, a doctor may prescribe antipsychotic medicine, benzodiazepines, or antidepressants to help with the paranoia, psychosis, agitation and sleep disturbances that often trouble dementia patients. However, these medicines aren’t always effective in treating these symptoms, and often come with adverse side effects.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments often involve exercise regimens, establishing strict routines, and adopting personal care strategies - which often require a high amount of caregiver time and effort. Due to the caregiver crisis, there’s currently an increasing demand and cost for paid caregivers who would be able to implement these rigorous routines, which creates even more pressure on informal caregivers (friends, family and community support). New technology has been looked upon in helping to address this caregiver crisis, with the global smart home health-care market predicted to reach $30 billion by 2023, up from $4.5 billion in 2017.

Engaging with music, both passively and actively, has been found to be promising in helping both dementia patients and caregivers in managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life. Neuroscientists have observed that music can improve mood, behaviour, and cognitive function. Music is known to stimulate autobiographical memory, which may have a role in promoting “neural scaffolding”, and thus preventing cognitive decline. From a physiological standpoint, music can also increase the heart rate and hormone levels in dementia patients. It has been proposed by researchers that music affects steroid hormone levels, which in turn may promote neurogenesis, regeneration and the repair of neurons. Furthermore, they demonstrated how music’s effect on levels of cortisol, testosterone and estrogen may contribute to a preventative effect on AD.

Non-profit organization Music and Memory documented their process of successfully implementing music therapy into nursing homes. Through music, the program was able to evoke memories and emotions within the residents which led to improved relationships with their caregivers, family members, and fellow residents. There was a boost in overall morale and less behavioural issues observed.

There are numerous studies that point towards the efficacy of personalized music therapy for dementia. However, it can be costly and inaccessible to find one-on-one music therapy programs. Studies have suggested that ambient music (music played through a sound system) remains a helpful and cost-effective alternative. Music has the potential to slow down the exacerbation of AD, help offset symptoms such as agitation and depression, and ultimately decrease the need for medication and other expensive treatments. Additionally, it may help reduce caregiver stress and improve the overall living environment. For these reasons, it can be extremely valuable to incorporate regimens involving music within dementia care plans.

Contact us to get a free demo of our personalized music technologies, or learn more about our music programs for dementia.