Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Music and Alzheimer's: Can it help?

How can music help people who have Alzheimer's disease?

Updated: 09-13-2012

Answer

Limited research suggests that listening to music can benefit people who have Alzheimer's disease in various ways.

For example, music can:

  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce agitation

Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety, lightening the mood and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer's disease — especially those who have difficulty communicating.

If you'd like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease, consider these tips:

  • Think about your loved one's preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Set the mood. To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that's soothing. When you'd like to boost your loved one's mood, use faster paced music.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one's hearing ability. Opt for music that isn't interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, dance with your loved one.
  • Pay attention to your loved one's response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else.

Keep in mind that music might not affect your loved one's behavior or quality of life and that further research on music and Alzheimer's disease is needed.

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