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House of Lords told how music can kick-start the memory of dementia patients

House of Lords told how music can kick-start the memory of dementia patients
24th January 2018

Music has the potential to be a powerful tool in the treatment of dementia, experts have told the House of Lords.

Representatives from the International Longevity Centre’s Commission on Dementia and Music explained how a favourite song can bring back memories from the past.

As well as MPs, a number of clinicians, academics, charity leaders and policymakers were present to hear the case for music to be made readily available to those with dementia.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre, said: “People with dementia have largely been denied the power of meaningful music. They often live in a silent world yet music can bring a person back to life.”

She explained that the regions of the brain used to remember music could be relatively unscathed by dementia, allowing the feelings associated with tunes and lyrics to come flooding back.

It is the latest addition to mounting evidence that music can help dementia patients, with the baroness saying “not enough” is being done to ensure they have access to it.

Findings presented by the commission to the House of Lords included written evidence collated from 50 experts, reports The Daily Express.

On top of the enjoyment that can come from music, many symptoms were seen to be minimised after listening to a familiar song.

These included improved mood and behaviour and language problems being less pronounced. The best results came from songs that were popular when a person was between ten and 30 years old.

Care homes could be doing more, however, as it is thought that just five per cent of them offer live music or put the radio on for their patients.

Dr Karen Harrison-Dening, of Dementia UK, said: “Music is increasingly being used to help people with dementia relive past experiences and tap into powerful emotions. 

“It can provide comfort and pleasure and provide a way to help people connect.”

While figures from the Alzheimer’s Society suggest there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia at present, this is expected to rise to more than a million by 2025.

The term dementia encompasses a number of different types of neurological disorder, with Alzheimer’s being the most common.

There is currently no cure for dementia, but drugs are available to slow down its onset and it’s believed that good lifestyle choices can help protect against its effects.