Effective Music for Calming Someone with Alzheimer's

Try playing your loved one's favorite music during transitions or during activities that are becoming difficult, such as bathing, driving, or settling down at night. Because musical memories seem to be stored in several parts of the brain, they're a type of memory that seems to stick in the mind even when short-term memory fades.

Some tips for choosing the right music:

  • If you're not sure whether classical, show tunes, or the Beatles suit best, try choosing music from when the person was in his or her 20s. This is often a deeply emotional time for young people, when they may be falling in love, attending parties and dances, and spending a lot of time listening to music.

  • If you're unsure exactly which tunes to choose, aim broadly. Some satellite radio or cable channels are devoted to music from a particular era. Or you can find CDs or search for lists of greatest hits from a particular year or decade.

  • Whatever genre you choose, avoid radio stations with commercials; the interruptions can be confusing or even agitating.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

over 5 years, said...

Our son has profound physical, mental, and medical challenges that necessitate frequent trips to the hospital. I make sure to take his Ipod and pillow speaker w/us to distract him from procedures. Often, the staff and I end up singing w/the music. It seems to raise everyone's spirits.

almost 6 years, said...

I learned shortly after my husband's diagnosis listening to his favorite music helps in more ways than I can count. I have developed a technique tailored to his daily/nightly behavior cinluding sudden changes.

about 6 years, said...

My Mom lives with me and I want her life to be pleasant. Thank you for tips on so many issues.

over 6 years, said...

Yup! i could relate with this. Whenever i hum a tune familiar my mum joins in and she feels more cheerful. good tip! will look for those cds to help her calm down!

over 6 years, said...

I have used music in the past while working with my disabled daughter. When she was too young to tell time I used to put on the same CD every moring at the time she got up. As the songs changed I pointed out to her that you have to be dressed say by the end of the third song, you need to finish breakfast, say by the end of the sixth song and so on until she left on the bus. If she argued with me I would just tell her the song said she was supposed to be doing this. I had friends with kids with autism and it worked with their kids too. So it might be a way to structure time for any one that can not tell time.

almost 7 years, said...

There is a growing amount of scientific research indicating that music helps Alzheimer's patients remember. Here is one example http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2011/03/music-boosts-memory-in-alzheimers.html Many Alzheimer's caregivers claim that music also makes AD patients seem 'more there'. Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room