When we age, we commonly find our memory is not what it used to be. There are many methods of “exercise” for your brain, however this exercising may not be possible anymore by mid-dementia when they commonly lose the ability to understand or follow instruction steps.

One of the saddest moments for a family member is when their loved one forgets who they are. More than any of the other losses, this seems to have the most emotional impact on those who love them. The family begins to feel they have lost their mother, father, wife or husband and commonly emotional withdrawal from their loved one follows.

What would it mean to the family if their loved one could regain some of their memory and cognitive ability even for a few moments? If they actually could recognize them?

The MP3 Music Miracle

It is well documented that music is extremely therapeutic for those in any stage of dementia. But what I’ve seen is the music being played to groups in facility activities or as background music in the family home. Music is well documented as an effective method of engaging those with dementia.

I recently watched several videos about using MP3 player headphones with the downloaded favorite music of the individual with dementia. A 90-year-old ballerina in a wheel chair began to relive dancing on stage with an expression of bliss on her face as she listened to classical music.

An elderly man babbling in later dementia, suddenly came alive when they put on the headphones playing his favorite blues and Motown. He smiled looking around the room as he began to sing and move his feet to the music. (Alive Inside Project)

Another woman with earlier dementia and still living with her husband was experiencing the confusion and extreme depression that frequently comes with the earlier stages. She put on the headphones, began to smile, wave her hands in rhythm to the rock music, got up and grabbed her husband’s hand and they danced happily around the room.

I was amazed not only by the strong effect of the music but because of the momentary lucidity these people experienced. The ballerina asked the person to raise the volume, the elderly man answered questions cognitively after the music stopped looking the interviewer in the eye and the lady living at home was able to lift her depression instantly and reconnect with her husband.

It seemed to have a much stronger effect using the headphones vs just playing music in the room. Why is that?

I think it is because the headphones create a hyper focused environment where the outer sounds were buffered. Our environment is full of noise even at subliminal levels and this competes with music played without headphones. Also, the downloaded music was individually programmed to what the person loved in the past. All they heard was their music.

I highly recommend home caregivers get the MP3 headphones and take the time to program your loved ones music or have a someone else do it for you. When your loved one has regularly scheduled times to use the headphones it will alleviate depression, boredom and help with difficult behaviors. The best part would be if like the people in the videos they are able to resuscitate some of their cognitive abilities.

It’s certainly worth whatever the cost to give it a try. It just might change your caregiving experience and help your loved one travel through this difficult voyage a little happier.


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