5 Sources of Music for Your Bad-Day Playlist

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Musical memories seem to lie deep in the brain, possibly because they're stored in multiple locations. That's why music has the power to soothe ruffled emotions and even help someone with moderate-stage dementia seem to briefly "snap back" to his or her old self, if only for the duration of a song.

Pull together a "bad-day playlist" of music that you can use when you and your loved one with dementia are having a hard time getting along or making it through a bath or a meal. Better still, create two lists: one to help energize if lethargy is an issue, and one to soothe and calm on days you're coping with agitation.

What to include:

  • The person's absolute favorites (often that's what was popular in their teens or 20s)

  • Any sort of music you've noticed has an especially calming effect, whether it's Christmas music or random New Age compositions

  • Spiritual music, such as hymns, for an avoid churchgoer

  • Tunes with catchy refrains you can sing along with, such as old TV show theme songs (search iTunes)

  • Soundtracks to musicals, such as The Sound of Music or Anything Goes

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 3 years, said...

I have organized a musical chorus at our local senior center and we have 30 members. We have been doing music therapy for sometime and it is an effective tool if organized correctly with the families help. Ask a family member for a persons favorite song and then spring it on them and you will notice a good reaction but only temporary unfortunately. I recommend as the best source of all types of music You Tube and I find this the best tool for my wife. She is English WWII and loves and reacts to Vera Lynn as many times as I replay her wartime music. One of the sad things about medication is the doughnut hole and how much out of pocket you have to spend to go into the next category. This has to be changed in view of the number of patients developing. Namenda the drug of choice is so expensive and the literature indicates is no longer effective, a placebo.. Nothing else out there to help but anxiety pills and I find that these keep the patient in a more sleep sequence and more dreaming when in bed. I have to identify myself to refresh her memory and she keeps talking about two or three items that are the major part of what she usually refers to.

almost 5 years, said...

Thank you for this as it is good advice for older folks and even those of us that care for them. Sometimes I catch them listening to those long infomercials (with the old tunes on them). It does seem to help to adjust or pull them (and/or us) out of a yucky mood. Have been thinking about it, but just been procrastinating, but putting it off is not helping either. My mom has been listening to music on the radio sometimes at night and was kind of glad she did. Put her in a better mood.

about 5 years, said...

I love this idea but don't know how to find some of the variety of old music my mom would enjoy. Everything from a couple church hymns to anything "we sang along with Mitch" (Miller) many years ago. Might have to google a site to find these songs in one place.

about 6 years, said...

Yes, It's one more tool that I can reach out for in those moments that seems I have no end to the madness. I didn't think of music of a form of calmness. Thank you

over 6 years, said...

I'm a care manager and like to pass along tips to caregivers of the clients I serve. This will be particularly helpful for a couple w/dementia who often are difficult to provide care for.

about 7 years, said...

My mother does love to listen to music. I just never connected it to a bad-day before now. Thank you.