music guitarWhile being forgotten or losing personal connections are two of the main concerns for people worried about a loved one developing dementia, the power of music in helping to overcome the loss of those connections should not be overlooked, according to a survey.

Research from Bupa Care Homes found that the majority (82%) of people have experienced a vivid memory when listening to a particular song or piece of music. In addition, a further 81% agreed that music reminds them of a time, such as a past holiday, or person in their lives. Despite this, less than 1 in 10 (9%) would think of using music to connect with someone living with dementia.

Additionally, only a third of respondents (29%) could name an important song and its significance for their parents ( was played at their wedding) and not even half (44%) could for a partner, even though music has the ability trigger memories.

With an estimated 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, Bupa is encouraging everyone to discover their parents’ and partners’ ‘memory playlist’ in order to keep powerful connections alive in later life.

Music: a powerful communication tool

Professor Graham Stokes, director of dementia care at Bupa Care Homes, explained: “When we think of a loved one developing dementia, the fear that a special relationship, built on shared memories and connections, will be lost is always front of mind. Music is a powerful tool for communicating and connecting with people living with the condition. Even for those with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others. 

“However, we all have unique tastes in music, which means that it is very important to personalise music, especially for processes like reminiscence therapy. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to share the music that is important to them, with their loved ones. This information could be a powerful tool in maintaining connections in later life.”

Dr Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist who specialises in the study of musical memory, explained the power of music therapy: “Music is often tied up with very important events in our life and therefore it carries a degree of emotional attachment. Emotion not only helps to code a memory in a more elaborate way, but means that music can be triggered when we are in that particular emotional state or indeed trigger that state when we hear it again. This is why music holds so much promise as a form of therapy for people in depressive or anxious states, particularly as we age.”