Music has often been described as a universal language, and studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation and stress hormones.
Though there are no claims that music can cure a disease, research has shown music benefits in a number of ways: reduces stress and anxiety, helps people sleep better, often helps alleviate pain, improves communication, is a way to express feelings, promotes physical rehabilitation and music also enhances memory.
Music also has been shown to assist in memory and language skills, help curb aggressive or agitated behaviors and even spark a response from a nonverbal, late-stage Alzheimer’s patient.
Musical aptitude and appreciation are two abilities that remain in individuals with Alzheimer’s long after other abilities have passed; thus, music can have a way of reaching the person beyond the disease.
Music motivates and inspires and is a powerful and nonthreatening medium, and some people with Alzheimer’s react positively, enjoying better moods and emotional states. Even the rhythm and structure of the music, which may make someone tap their toes or clap their hand, can provide a form of exercise.
Christmas music often spurs memories in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because the brain has music organized through rhythm and melody, it helps affected individuals remember different aspects and times in their lives. The music during the Christmas season can be joyful and spiritually powerful as well as uplifting and affirming.
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients seemingly reconnect with memories triggered by music, and reminiscing with traditional Christmas tunes is very therapeutic as it can spark conversation and interaction with the individual. Keep in mind, however, that there’s an appropriate amount of balance attached to listening to Christmas music. Too much can be overwhelming and can cause bouts of anxiety, depression or sadness. Too little can rob the individual of the joy of the season and opportunities to reminisce about the past and draw out retained memories with others.
A new study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy suggests that listening to 78 minutes of music every day is good for mental health and quality of life. The Academy even recommends a specific formula for a positive outcome: 14 minutes of uplifting music to feel happy; 16 minutes of calming music to feel relaxed.; 16 minutes of music that helps you overcome sadness; 15 minutes of motivating music to aid concentration; and another 17 minutes of music that helps you manage anger.
This formula can be practiced by anyone, and caregivers can create a playlist of Christmas music following this structure to improve mood and behaviors in their loved ones.
Additionally, the caregiver can integrate Christmas music with familiar or favorite activities of the season. Pairing activities with music can help the affected person develop a rhythm that can help them recall the memory of the activity, which could improve cognitive ability over time.
Though the holiday season may be challenging at times, caregivers can aspire to embrace the season, encouraging their loved ones to share all their Christmas memories.