The Power of Music: Improving Wellbeing in People with Dementia

Music has an incredible capacity to improve wellbeing in people with dementia. We look at a few ways you can bring more music into the lives of people living with the condition.


Music has an incredible capacity to improve wellbeing in people with dementia. We look at a few ways you can bring more music into the lives of people living with the condition.

There’s nothing like a song to instantly transport you back in time to a special time and place, is there? The amazing capacity of music to trigger memories and emotions is something most of us have experienced. But it can be particularly powerful when you live with a condition like dementia. If you work with people with dementia, you’ve probably seen the transformative effects of music. People can become more animated and engaged. In some cases, those who are generally non-verbal may suddenly break into song when prompted by tunes that have significance to them.  

The role of music in positive dementia care is something that has really taken off over the last few years, with high profile initiatives like the Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain, Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir and Music and Dementia at the BBC.

The World Health Organisation’s 2019 report into the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing, clearly  highlighted the benefits of music. The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) also report the importance of music for brain health and improving quality of life. As well as helping to lower depression, stress and anxiety, music has been found to support improved cognition, speech, spatial skills and behavioural issues in people living with dementia.

With all that in mind, it makes sense for us all to enable people with the condition to engage with the music they love.

Strategies to help people with dementia enjoy music

As with any good dementia care, getting to know the person is key. Make time to chat - talking and connecting with someone is a really important but often overlooked part of any caring role. Life story work is a great way to understand more about their personality, what they’ve experienced and what type of music will resonate with them. (Obviously, you will need to be sensitive to the fact that some songs may bring up difficult memories and feelings, so tread carefully.)

Once you know what the person enjoys, it’s time to get creative! With an increasing number of dementia music groups popping up around the UK, you may find a local activity to join. Examples in the Bromley area include the Bromley and Greenwich Singing for Fun Choir and the MindCare Dementia Choir. Sadly, in the current climate of social distancing and shielding, it’s obviously not practical to access group activities that may be available in your area at the moment. But it’s always useful to know about them for future reference.

As many older and vulnerable people will be staying safe at home for the foreseeable future, radio and online services are a great option. There are several stations that cater exclusively for people with dementia. For example, Playlist for Life allows you to create a personal life soundtrack. It’s a really fun activity for the person and their carers to do together that brings comfort, happiness and promotes engagement.

Another great new resource is the Music 4 Dementia online radio station. It’s easily accessible via a phone, tablet, computer, smart TV or devices like Alexa and allows the user to choose a mixed station or a musical era depending on their date of birth. There aren’t any adverts or excessive talking like other radio stations either, which is very useful for someone with dementia who finds interruptions distracting.

Another option is to see if the person you care for has a music collection of their own and something to play it on. Revisiting their own personal collection could be a very powerful experience for them (although, depending on their age, you may find yourself entering a world of tapes and vinyl)! If you can sing (or even if you can’t) a good singalong is also something you could enjoy together.

In essence, whatever you can do to bring more music into someone’s life will boost wellbeing, relationships and be beneficial for everyone. So, what are you waiting for?!

At Bluebird Care Bromley, we provide dementia care services in Bromley and South East London. To find out more about how our homecare could help you live life well in your own home, get in touch.