For people with Alzheimer’s, research has proven a deeper, more profound response is possible when music from the most hormonally and chemically charged points in their lives is presented; therefore, if we dive into the general umbrella of their teenage years and bridge it together with their 20s, when significant events like marriage and having children may have occurred, we might have an easier time. This does not mean earlier songs from an individual’s youth is void, and in fact, those may work better. It all simply depends. The tunes recommended below are likely create some type of emotional response, and as discussed in previous blogs, that is the most direct path to activating the limbic system and all the networks of both hemispheres.
Because the presence of lyrics activates more networks in the brain due to speech and language processing or semantics, a larger emotional response is the consequence with lyrics, which is supported by research. If that energetic stimulation is what your loved one needs, then use a song-filled playlist, and of course instruments as well, to further enhance their response. If peace and calm is required, then stick to selections without words like Classical, New Age, or even environmental (Naturescape) types.
Concerning hearing aides, I know from personal experience with the elderly that music can tend to sound unnatural or unpleasant as some aides can subtly alter the pitch. Aides can also be overwhelming if the acoustics of the room are too live, which means the sound waves bounce off hard surfaces causing reverberation or echoes throughout the room. A dry room with carpet, paneling, or curtains all help. Cochlear implants can be even worse – some are good, but certain brands relay partial sound where the melody is absent and the beat/rhythms are clear. For people with significant or complete hearing loss, the right music and instruments can make music very fulfilling! The larger the vibration surface, the better; therefore, a large handheld drum with a mallet may be enjoyable. In addition, the lower register of the piano, bass tone bars, wooden xylophones, or even boomwhackers would also accommodate forms of communication.
Within each playlist, ideas are broken down into four major categories:
1. Movement, with both gentle and dance-inspired suggestions
2. Relaxation for muscles, or even facial massage
3. Imagery, which is best without lyrics to focus on the auditory stimuli
4. Energy-inducing and fun favorites, relevant to their time period
All these pieces are flexibly interchangeable, and merely providing a starting point. Edit these selections where necessary while also not forgetting to include your loved one’s cultural background, especially if they are originally from another country. Songs from their youth may even be found in classical repertoire and is highly effective. A movement called Nationalism in the late19th/early 20th century unfolded, where composers used musical ideas or motifs identified within folk song melodies from specific countries, regions, and ethnicities. Composers like Weber truly began this movement within one of his operas, but more known users of Nationalism would be Chopin, Dvorjak, Smetana, Liszt, and later Bartok and Copland.
As far as specific artist selections of the popular music within the suggested playlists, the original year of publication is noted, but artist choice could depend on your loved one’s favorite singers. Even when assuming a particular artist is preferred, simply asking the individual may help create an appropriate playlist. You can burn CDs from iTunes, place playlists on an iPod (standard practice with headphones, not earbuds), or sign up for Spotify or Pandora to create playlists, where 24/7 access is possible to all these tunes from any artist.
Contact me anytime via the email button above for specific questions regarding music selections. Enjoy creating the playlists, and thank you for reading!
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