Music has the amazing capacity to alter for the better the way we are feeling at any given time. Familiar tunes can bring cheer, evoke memories, and provide comfort – all of which can contribute to a positive sense of wellbeing.
For older people living in residential care homes, the benefits that music brings can be profound. Recent research has found that music in its various forms can play a part in helping to alleviate the symptoms of a range of long term health conditions including depression, high blood pressure, chronic pain and even memory impairment.
Music can play a beneficial role in nursing care so lets explore some of the benefits of music here…
Bring comfort and contentment
Listening to your favourite music can have a very calming effect. By slowing the heart rate and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol music can help people relax, reducing agitation and anxiety, aiding good sleep and increasing a feeling of general wellbeing.
Provide an enjoyable activity to boost confidence and self-esteem
Music can both stimulate and engage. Listening and singing along to well known songs can evoke verbal and emotional memories while learning new songs can help boost cognitive skills.
For people living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, spoken language can become increasingly difficult as their symptoms develop, making it a challenge to communicate their needs. The areas of the brain associated with music however remain responsive for longer than those responsible for speech, so even after people can no longer express themselves verbally, singing and responding to music provides an alternative channel of communication.
Increase social engagement
Music provides an opportunity for bringing people together. This could be on a simple one to one basis with a family member or carer to enjoy a quiet moment sharing a person’s favourite songs, or it could take the form of a group activity involving a few, or indeed many, people.
Musical activity will encourage people to communicate both verbally and through body language and gesture, and can play an important role in alleviating feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Playing music can motivate people to get moving, and as we all know, exercise is good for you! So whether it’s getting on your feet and dancing along to the music, doing a spot of chair dancing, clapping along, or even simply tapping your toes, moving to the music is an enjoyable way to encourage some gentle exercise.
Tackle boredom and improve mood
Music provides a great range of activities that can easily be tailored to the needs, and individual preferences, of each participant.
So whether it’s singing along in a group setting, participating in live music making, creating a personal playlist of favourite musical tracks to listen to, or undertaking structured music therapy sessions, music can provide a hugely beneficial activity that can be enjoyed by all.