|Music Therapy and Individuals with Dementia
By: Sarah Pruitt
Music Therapy is defined by American Music Therapy Associations (AMTA) is an allied health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, psychological, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. To be able to work in this field you must have certain personal qualifications such as a desire to help other who are in need, an interest in other people not only with the clients but with other nurses, doctors, and other music therapist, and of course the love of music. The most amazing thing about being a music therapist is that there are job careers everywhere you look. They stretch from NICU, working with infants in the hospital, to hospice and even prisons, drug agencies, abusive homes, nursing homes, crisis centers, everywhere. One of the places that I will talk about is Music Therapy working with individuals who have Dementia.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) define dementia as not being a specific kind of disease at all; it’s a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain. As Dementia progresses in ones life, you may start to realize that they lose their ability solve simple problems, like mathematic problems, and they also lose ability to maintain emotional control. They may also go through some personal changes and behavioral problems such as agitation, delusion, and hallucinations. There are some drug out there that have been found to help slow down the progression of dementia in individuals, never to reverse it or stop it.
Some symptoms that may cause Dementia are Alzheimer’s disease or even Huntington’s disease. These diseases may lead to a progressive loss of mental function (NINDS). People with Dementia are okay to live at home by themselves but need to be checked on repeatedly and have a close eye kept on them frequently. Persons with more severe Dementia need round-the-clock care. This is for their own protection mostly from themselves. Persons with severe Dementia could, for example, overdose on their own medication or no take it at all. They may just forget if they’ve taken it, and take it again to soon, or maybe they thought that they already took it, so they end up never taking it all day.
For most individuals who have Dementia, Music Therapy is a great source to help them in everyday activities. From walking to eating a meal, to remembering your own family’s name, maybe their telephone number or address or where they live. With Music Therapy, we find ways to help them to remember such this or to do certain tasks just to help them through the day. It could even be something simple as to just remember their wedding day or a birthday. We might play their wedding song, or play the birthday song and ask them about their favorite birthday, maybe even what type or gifts they got or where they went.
The most common way to help individuals with Dementia is using task analysis. This is where we take performing a task and break it up into every single individual step. For example, brushing your teeth. You normally get up in the morning and do it without thinking. However, with someone that can’t remember how to perform the task, your have to break it down and one of the easiest way to remember anything is by putting it to a song or a melody. Depending on what source you look at, this task is 22-40 steps long. First you must locate your toothbrush, then locate the toothpaste, unscrew the cap on the toothpaste, place the cap down, pick-up your toothbrush, squeeze a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush, put the toothpaste down, etc. Then it goes on to turning the water on and brushing individual sides of your teeth and then putting everything back where it was.
Like brushing your teeth, there is more task analysis for making your bed, even finding direction to a certain store that you like to go to, maybe even a telephone. Once again, everything is put to music to make it easier to remember. For some Music Therapist, if they are around the facility much or where the client lives, or the Music Therapist lives to far away, they may do something for that client such as the task analysis and put it to a tape or a disk or some type and label it whether it may be for directions to the store or phone number. That way, if the Therapist is out or away, they can put in the tape or disk that is labeled for what they want, and still remember how to do things.
American Music Therapy Association. 1999. http://www.musictherapy.org/handbook/career.html
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Nov. 19, 2007. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dementias/dementia.htm