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Create a Music Playlist for Someone With Alzheimer’s/Dementia

The Effects of Music on Alzheimer Patients

Alzheimer’s disease progressively erodes the brain’s abilities, taking memories away from patients as their brains gradually shrink. But researchers at the University of Utah found that the salience network—the brain hub that decides which stimuli deserve attention and responds to them—remains relatively functional even when Alzheimer’s has advanced, and it’s possible to use music to cue memories.

Neuroscientists believe that music can evoke emotions—emotions, in turn, trigger recollection of memories. Music seems effective in re-activating the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, allowing them to remember something from their past.

Music & Memory℠ for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

The 2012 film ALIVE INSIDE: A Story of Music & Memory offered a powerful example—the movie documented how Henry, a dementia patient, went from being noncommunicative to lively and animated when he listened to music.

Dan Cohen, the social worker who helped Henry in the documentary, founded the nonprofit organization Music & Memory in 2010 to improve the quality of life of residents in long-term care facilities through the gift of iPods and personalized music. His organization also produced a guide for families and caregivers to create personalized playlists for seniors who are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

How to Create a Free Music Playlist for a Loved One

The guide from Music & Memory includes detailed instructions on how you can set up a music playlist on an iPod. But if you do not have an iPod, here are a few video and music-streaming sites you can use:

  • YouTube – The Google-owned video site has millions of songs from different time periods. Accessible both on a desktop computer and on mobile devices, you can build playlists and listen to your selected tunes anytime, anywhere as long as you are connected to the internet. If you want to remove the ads played before each video and enjoy the offline video playback feature, you can also subscribe to YouTube Music Premium. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to create a new playlist on YouTube.
  • Spotify – A music-streaming site that boasts a diverse collection of 30 million songs in its library. You can use Spotify on your desktop computer or on mobile devices. Like YouTube, you can also use it for free if you don’t mind the ads. Otherwise, there is also a premium version. See this webpage for instructions on how to create a playlist on Spotify.
  • SoundCloud – SoundCloud is a music-streaming site that allows people to upload audio files they produce. If you opt for the paid version, you can eliminate ads and listen to songs and/or other audio files offline. Follow this guide to create a playlist on SoundCloud.
  • Amazon Music Unlimited – Amazon launched this on-demand music-streaming service in October 2016. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can use the service free of charge. People who own an Amazon Echo—a voice-controlled speaker (to activate the device, just say “Alexa!”) that can deliver information, play music and make online purchases—can access Amazon Music Unlimited through the device besides using their desktop computers and mobile devices. Visit the Amazon Help & Customer Service page to learn how you can build a playlist.

Do you know which types of music your loved one likes? If not, start by adding a few classic tunes from his/her youth to find out more!

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Right at Home offers in-home care to seniors and adults with disabilities who want to live independently. Most Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated, and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff.
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