Using Music in Alzheimer’s Care

blue vinyl record playing on turntable

Music is powerful. A song can bring us joy, connect us with others and transport us to another time. For those facing Alzheimer’s or other dementia, music offers precious moments and emotional connections. 

Research has shown that music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues common in the middle-stages of Alzheimer’s disease (typically the longest stage). Even in the late-stages, music can be helpful. A person may be able to hum, tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. When verbal communication is difficult and remembering recent events is challenging, music offers a way to connect.  

Music can improve the lives of those facing Alzheimer’s and other dementia

Here are tips to incorporate music into your caregiving:

  • Use music in a group or individually. 
  • Play music out loud through speakers or use headphones.
  • Identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person. If possible, let the person choose the music.
  • Listen with your loved one. Hum or sing along. 
  • Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.  
  • Create mood. Use tranquil music for a calm environment, or a faster paced familiar song (from childhood) to boost the spirit.
  • Encourage movement, clap, tap to the rhythm or dance.
  • Avoid sensory overload. Eliminate competing sounds. Shut windows and doors and turn off the television. 
  • Take part in a music or singing group or choir, when appropriate.
  • Play instruments, like a drum, try using an empty coffee can.
  • Listen to a live performance. Local schools sometimes offer inexpensive recitals.
  • Compile a personal playlist and play with a smart speaker, mobile phone or tablet.
  • Watch a favorite musical.

For more activity ideas join ALZConnected, the Alzheimer’s Association’s online support community, where every day, caregivers share new ideas and encourage one another. Or join a local support group through Community Resource Finder.

Join us on August 16 at 1 p.m. ET for Advancing the Science: The Magic of Music in the Brain. Our special guest, neuro-ethnomusicologist Aaron Cloverston, will explore the relationship between music and health and highlight research on music and dementia. The program will offer practical examples and resources that caregivers could find useful when thinking about incorporating music as a daily activity.

Register today at

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