Healing Power of Music in Eldercare


by Christy Cuellar-Wentz

caregiver, eldercare                                                                                            Who knew music could be so good for us?!  I'm watching a fascinating documentary, The Music Instinct: Science and Song, and am amazed by the powerful ways in which music can transform our lives.  My mother was a musician as I was growing up, so I was immersed in music at an early age.  I have always loved a wide variety of music, but had only anecdotal evidence of the beneficial effects on our minds and bodies, until now.

As a caregiver, you'll be interested to learn that advances in science are making it possible to demonstrate the host of benefits that music brings.  You may already have guessed that calming music does indeed soothe the soul, activating a physiological relaxation response complete with slower breathing, reduced heart rate and decreased blood pressure.  I can't tell you how many times I have turned to my iPod to bring my stress level down after some tough eldercare moments!

But did you know that music literally helps our brains find new neural pathways, enhancing brain functioning?  Finland researchers have shown that the rehabilitation of stroke patients is enhanced by listening to music for several hours each day.  Music may also be a perfect prescription for people with Parkinson's disease, improving balance and movement through rhythmic cues.  A CNN report Music as a Mega-Vitamin for the Brain details profound changes that have occurred in stroke and Parkinson's patients.

While calming music promotes a meditative state, livelier music encourages brainwaves to sync up with the beat of the music.  This means faster beats can bring increased concentration and active thinking, perfect for eldercare patients in need of healthy stimulation.  And the benefits last long after the music has stopped.  Shifting brainwave patterns that are initially encouraged by music make it possible for the brain to change speeds with greater ease whenever life requires it!

Want more?  We now know that music can improve our moods, ward off depression, decrease pain, increase creativity, improve communication and enhance memory.  While you and your loved ones can experience these benefits by simply turning on music you enjoy, I encourage you to explore the wonderful field of health care known as Music Therapy at www.musictherapy.org.  Music Therapy professionals are dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone through the healing power of music.

How has music helped your life as a caregiver, or the well-being of your loved ones?  Please share your stories with our EldercareABC community by commenting on this blog.