At All Things Seniors, we talk to experts who share their valuable advice and resources to care for the elderly, especially those who suffer from long term illnesses. Dementia (place a link for dementia) is one of them. Our guest, Mary Sue, requests that caregivers (nursing assistants, nurses, care assistants) would understand how using music could really make their job easier. At the end of the day, happy people are easier to care for. Everyone carries phones these days. It would be helpful to keep a few songs in store if they aren’t the ones to sing. Music can distract, it can soothe, it can energize somebody, it can motivate somebody who might have trouble getting started to walk down the hall.

Music can also create a positive emotional link between you and that person who you are caring for. There’s a saying that goes like, “someone who’s singing with you or to you is probably not there to hurt you”. For instance, when a care partner comes in to bathe, it can be quite challenging, sometimes it can even create a discord. So, when the caretaker goes in and takes a minute to sing a song with them or turns on a song on their phone, it establishes a connection. Hence, caregiving becomes a little easier. It might not be a hundred percent bulletproof, but it might certainly help.

People may not remember your name or who you are, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Music can be the key to creating that positive feeling. For example, if someone is feeling down, you can see that they’re depressed, or they may even truly be crying. If you can play an uplifting little song, they might cheer up. You can play “sunny side of the street” or “we ain’t got a bear a little money” or something like that. Sometimes they themselves could come up with a cheerful or an uplifting song.

A song can be used to motivate. It can be challenging to help someone living with dementia to join in celebrations and make them understand that you would like to help them walk towards the music. Our guest Mary Sue shared one of her experiences that can be a great tip. She would sometimes come in, and after a greeting a person, she would just have her arm around their side and start singing. She explains that a song that would motivate, energize, or in some cases, just distract them.

In another example, Mary Sue met a woman called Evelyn, who grew quite angry and upset when someone sang a parody to a song and said that she was a Christian. Mary then apologized and started singing an Irish lullaby. Eventually, everyone joined in, and Evelyn started to relax. She joined in at the end. It is a great example of how music can prove to be the best tool a caregiver can have.

Music lights up more parts of the brain than any other activity. So, when you listen to music, it decreases cortisol, which is stress. It increases dopamine, which is a good, happy hormone. So, you retain it, and it makes you feel better. It holds true for everyone.