Music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer's disease. Both allow for self-expression and engagement, even after dementia has progressed.

 

Music

Music can be powerful. Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer's, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.

Use these tips when selecting music for a person with dementia:

  • Identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person. If possible, let the person choose the music.
  • Choose a source of music that isn't interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.  
  • Use music to create the mood you want. For example, a tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment, while a faster paced song from someone's childhood may boost spirit and evoke happy memories.
  • Encourage movement (clapping, dancing) to add to the enjoyment.
  • Avoid sensory overload; eliminate competing noises by shutting windows and doors and by turning off the television. Make sure the volume of the music is not too loud.

Map out a plan to approach Alzheimer's

Go to our free online tool, Alzheimer's Navigator and complete a series of short surveys to receive a customized action plan.

Go To Alzheimer's Navigator

Art

Art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. They can provide the person with dementia — as well as caregivers — an opportunity for self-expression.

When planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's, keep these tips in mind:
 

  • Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem childlike.
  • Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement, discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.
  • Help the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
  • Use safe materials. Avoid toxic substances and sharp tools.
  • Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.