If you have a loved one with dementia, you've probably wondered how to comfort him or her during the rough days. It's incredibly hard to watch a beloved family member struggle with memory loss, but it can be even tougher when he or she also has trouble communicating basic needs to you. However, recent research suggests a potential way to elevate your loved one's mood — and it's surprisingly simple.
A November 2018 study published in Geriatrics & Gerontology International analyzed 51 people living with dementia who attended adult day health centers to see if a music intervention could improve their moods. Researchers had each participant listen to personalized music through headphones. These tunes included prompts for social interaction with fellow participants as well as the researchers. After the folks listened to the music for 20 minutes, they went back to the center's regularly scheduled activities — with the researchers observing them for another 20-minute period.
The results were quite promising, to say the least. The researchers observed a positive change in mood and a decrease in agitation for the people who listened to the music. Specifically, the participants showed an increase in eye contact, eye movement, engagement with other people, and talkativeness. Perhaps the most heartwarming finding is that the folks demonstrated a "significant" increase in the emotion of joy.
"The promising results of this affordable and meaningful intervention have propelled our team to develop an online training for direct care workers in long-term care communities," said lead author Emily Ihara, PhD, in a press release.
If you're a caretaker for a loved one living with dementia, you might consider asking a trusted doctor if music might be helpful in your situation. Every case is different, but it's comforting to know that it's not impossible to help a person with dementia feel a little more cheerful during the especially challenging days. It just goes to show that sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness can help make a big difference!