Music Therapy Inspires and Reduces Pain
You’ve probably already experienced many of the ways in which music can affect your mood. Want to get excited for a big event? Play a bright, up-tempo song. Feeling kind of blue? Play a slow ballad. Missing friends or loved ones? Play a song that comforts you. The field of music therapy really puts that music/mood connection to work in order to help heal the body and mind.
The Older Americans Act of 1992 defined music therapy as “the use of musical or rhythmic interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to accomplish the restoration, maintenance, or improvement of social or emotional functioning, mental processing, or physical health of an older individual.” Essentially, playing the right type of music in the right moments may help seniors hang on to memories, fight depression, or even improve their health. It also helps reduce stress, improve speech and physical skills, and encourage bonding and interaction with others.
Music therapists use melody, harmony, and pacing to bring about intentional change in their patients. There is a strong connection between the way our brains process sound and how they process memory. Therapists can use this connection to help aging patients manage pain, battle dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
Even without being officially trained, families and caregivers can harness the power of music to help their loved ones.
Get in tune with the rhythms of your loved ones’ daily routines and select music to match their tempo. If your loved ones have a mentally low point in the routine, choose music that may lift their spirits to play at that time.
Play that old time rock and roll, or jazz, or the Beatles, or any music that reminds your loved ones of a time in life they were really passionate about.
Jog their memory with questions about what particular songs mean to them in the context of their lives. Did they used to play this at school dances? What did you listen to on the radio? What did you sing to your kids when they were young?
Have a sing-along! Find music that you and your loved ones have in common (or learn their favorite tunes) and hum, sing, dance, or just hold hands and listen. The act of appreciating music in a group (even a group of two) promotes relaxation and keeps loneliness at bay.
Utilize tech tools like iTunes or Spotify (there are free desktop versions) to create playlists, dust off an old record player, or better yet, make your own music with instruments or voices to harness the healing power of music.