Effectiveness of Music Therapy to Provide Aid to Our Elderly Population Suffering Dementia
According to an article published in Dementia Therapy And Music A Place for Mom, dementia is defined as having a decline in memory and other mental abilities. Along with memory loss some of our elders also suffer from problems with language, decision making, mood changes, increased or high level of irritability, depression, anxiety, and an inability to recognize things that were once before common to them. Their behaviors usually consist of irritability, personality changes, restlessness, lack of control over themselves and they often get lost. Often people suffering from dementia experience a sense of loneliness, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia and depression. Think about how these types of symptoms would affect an adolescent; now think about how our elderly, who are suffering from it, must feel. Dementia is believed to affect approximately seven percent of our elderly population aged 60 and older. Most people when we hear the term dementia, tend to put it in the same category as Alzheimers. The simple difference between the two is Dementia is a syndrome while Alzheimers is a disease. Dementia is an umbrella that the Alzheimers fall under. The article went on to state that Alzheimers accounts for anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of our elderlys population dementia; approximately 50 million people suffer from dementia. For much of our elderly population, being diagnosed with dementia really puts a damper on their lifestyle. They often find themselves in very stressful situations. They experience symptoms like forgetting to pay a bill or often wondering if the bill was already paid, they often forget where they put their purse or wallet, they tend to forget an appointment or they show up to an appointment that was already completed, they forget how to prepare meals and some even forget how to turn on the stove. Others often forget their way around the neighborhood, so they often choose not to go out. These things alone would drive a normal person nuts, so think about what it must do to a person suffering from dementia. To them it may seem like the end of the world. Think about it, our elders who were once in charge of their lives, now feel like they are no longer in charge of anything. For them everything has changed including they way they see society and the way society sees them. They no longer understand life as they once knew it. They have already dealt with getting old, and now they must deal with the symptoms of dementia. Think for a moment how this could really change your life.
The more general treatment method of dementia are medicines called Cholinesterase inhibitors or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which were both talked about in the article Cholinesterase inhibitors. According to that article, these are a group of medicines used to block the normal breakdown of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the main neurotransmitter found in the body. This transmitter has functions in both the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. Acetylcholine is released by motor neurons to jumpstart the muscles and cholinesterase inhibitors block the action of the enzyme cholinesterase which is responsible for breaking down acetylcholine. While most doctors prescribe this as a best medicine to help with dementia, it does come with side effects. The side effects are vasodilation, constriction of the pupils in the eyes, increased secretion of sweat, saliva and tears, it also slows down the heart rate, mucus secretion in the respiratory tract and causes constriction in the airways. These side effects could sometimes prove to be more than a person suffering from dementia can handle. Most of them are already finding it difficult to cope with everyday life and now deal with these symptoms on top of what they already have. The one side effect of the medication is vasodilation, which, is the dilatation of blood vessels which in turn decreases blood pressure. Decreasing the blood pressure is a great side effect. These symptoms alone can cause high levels of irritability and cause a higher level of anxiety in our elders. Doctors also prescribe antioxidants, Ginkgo Biloba extract and vitamins. The effectiveness though of these prescriptions have not been established. The article went on to state drugs called atypical antipsychotics are also often prescribed to people suffering with dementia. These drugs normally cause side effects like blurred vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, muscle spasms, tremors weight gain, stroke and possibly death. These people are suffering from dementia, so why should they have to deal with those symptoms too? These changes in their lives will once again affect their quality of living. According to the article and much of the research being performed, currently there is no cure for dementia but there is a way to help our elders adjust to this change in their lives of course along with medication if they must take it. That adjustment includes music.
According to The American Music Therapy Association, music has been around for ages. Some consider it to be healing while others think of it as an explosive expression of humanity. To some, music can provide a more calming or a more realistic way of dealing with everyday life or those changes that so many elderly people sometime find so hard to deal with. To some people, music is the medicine that can help to overcome or deal with anything. Some people use it while they are working out, cleaning up the house, driving to work, studying for an exam or preparing for an interview for the job of their dream. Music has always been a part of our lives. Our elderly population suffering from dementia could use music to communicate with their providers, communicate with family and or friends. Music seems to be used in every part of the brain. It has a special place within everyones heart. There are so many of our elderly people that have significant or historical events, and for most of them music has been involved in some type of way. According to Concetta Tomaino, DA who is a certified musical therapist, the way the brain processes music remains a mystery, the only real thing we know is that music is processed on many levels all at once and on every part of the brain. Tomaino and other researchers have found a strong connection between the human brains auditory cortex and its limbic system when the emotions are stored. According to the researchers, this link makes it possible for sound to be processed almost immediately by the areas of the brain that are associated with long-term memory and emotions. For most of our elderly population, this could be a little more acceptable than dealing with medications. With music they could just grab an iPod or some other type of music source and get that relaxation they need instead of trying to remember where they put their medication. During their time of listening to the music of their choice, they could possibly feel reduced depression, less agitation, increased sociability, more movement and cognitive ability and less behavior problems. Why reach for medicines if you can reach for music?
To many people music is the language of earth. According to the article A Cross-Cultural Language, bone flutes, jaw harps, and percussive instruments were already being used more than 30,000 years ago to express qualities of human experience. Music, like food is central to virtually every culture on earth and could be characterized as food for the brain. The article also went on to say the modern method of using music to heal, is called music therapy and Music therapy was born after World War II when physicians and nurses who worked in veteran hospitals noticed their patients behaviors improved after listening to music. Today, more than seventy music therapy programs are accredited in the United States by The American Music Therapy Association. According to Suzanne Hanser, PhD, department of chair music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston, music therapy will not cure the symptom or disease, but it will allow the person to temporarily engage into and become more capable of communicating clearly.
Our elderly population need to feel a little more at ease when dealing with their dementia. They deserve the right to be able to engage in those day to day activities that most of us take for granted. They deserve the right to be able to communicate through which every type of music they choose. Feeling more at ease will cause them to unwind and feel less irritated which in turn could possible lead to less time feeling depressed. Music therapy has zero side effects, I mean except happy and excited, whereas cholinesterase inhibitors tend to slow down the heart rate, constrict the pupils and cause constriction in the airways.