Unmasking Memories Music Therapy’s Dance with Dementia

Music has the power to cross boundaries, transcend limitations, and reconnect us with our most profound memories. In the complex and often disorienting world of dementia, where the threads of recollection can be frayed and scattered, music therapy emerges as a key to unlocking the vault of the mind, allowing individuals to access long-forgotten moments and emotions. This article explores the symbiotic relationship between music therapy and dementia, highlighting how melodies and rhythms can serve both as a bridge to the past and a beacon of comfort in the present.


As dementia progresses, the ability to communicate and retain new information gradually diminishes. However, music therapy has been observed to rekindle the flickering embers of memory and connection. It’s not just about playing a familiar tune; it’s an intricate dance with the individual’s cognitive processes, emotional needs, and personal history. Here, we delve into the therapeutical benefits of music for people with dementia, presenting practical suggestions for caregivers and families to integrate music therapy into their care routines.

  1. Creating a Personalized Playlist:
    1. Tailor the playlist to include songs from the person’s youth or significant life events.
    2. Consider genres the person has enjoyed throughout their life.
    3. Engage with the person with dementia to observe their reactions and tweak the playlist accordingly.
    4. Use streaming services with algorithms that suggest similar songs to expand the playlist.
    5. Include calming music to reduce agitation and improve sleep quality.
    6. Remember to add variety to stimulate different memories and emotions.
    7. Incorporate live recordings to evoke the atmosphere of a past concert experience.
  2. Incorporating Rhythm and Movement:
    1. Pair music with simple exercises to encourage physical activity.
    2. Introduce hand-held percussion instruments to allow participation in making music.
    3. Implement rhythmic clapping or toe-tapping to the beat of the music.
    4. Use slow-dance movements for romantic songs to promote closeness and companionship.
    5. Encourage organized group activities like circle dances or guided movement to music.
    6. Explore the use of rhythmic breathing techniques alongside soothing music for relaxation.
    7. Consider professional-led music and movement sessions, such as Music and Memory classes.
  3. Fostering Emotional Connections:
  • Observe emotional responses to music and document songs that elicit positive reactions.
  • Use music as a conversation starter to discuss memories associated with specific songs.
  • Create opportunities for family members to share their musical favourites and stories.
  • Encourage singing along to foster a sense of togetherness and joy.
  • Introduce songs from different cultures to promote inclusivity and broad emotional engagement.
  • Select music that can reflect and validate the individual’s emotions, whether happy or sad.
  • Use music to establish mood during different times of the day.
  1. Enhancing Cognitive Stimulation:
    1. Choose music that contains lyrics to stimulate language and cognitive recall.
    2. Introduce theme-based music sessions revolving around holidays or events to spark memories.
    3. Use question-based discussions of the music to encourage critical thinking and memory recall.
    4. Incorporate music quizzes or name-that-tune games for interactive cognitive stimulation.
    5. Pair music with visual aids like photos or videos to strengthen cognitive connections.
    6. Offer simple music-making activities, like drumming, to engage cognitive processes.
    7. Explore new music together, fostering curiosity and cognitive engagement.
  2. Creating a Calm Environment:
    1. Use instrumental or classical music to create a tranquil atmosphere.
    2. Limit background noise to prevent overstimulation when music is playing.
    3. Adjust the volume to a comfortable level that does not startle or overwhelm.
    4. Choose songs with a slow tempo and gentle melody for relaxation and stress reduction.
    5. Implement a routine of playing calming music at specific times, such as during meals or bedtime.
    6. Integrate nature sounds with music to provide a sensory-rich calming effect.
    7. Utilize music with binaural beats or guided meditation to encourage deep relaxation.
  3. Overcoming Communication Barriers:
    1. Select songs with repetitive choruses or simple lyrics to facilitate sing-alongs.
    2. Use music as a non-verbal means of connecting when verbal communication is challenging.
    3. Encourage expression through instrument play or humming along if singing is not possible.
    4. Incorporate call-and-response songs to promote interaction.
    5. Introduce soothing music to help manage moments of frustration or anxiety.
    6. Utilize familiar tunes to prompt reminiscence and open lines of communication.
    7. Offer lyric sheets or visual prompts to assist those struggling to remember words.
  4. Building a Social Circle:
    1. Organize group music sessions to encourage socialization among individuals with dementia.
    2. Partner with local schools or youth groups for intergenerational music activities.
    3. Connect with other caregivers to share music and experiences in a supportive environment.
    4. Engage in community sing-alongs or choirs that are dementia-friendly.
    5. Attend concerts or musical events that offer a relaxed setting for individuals with dementia.
    6. Use music to celebrate birthdays or other milestones, making social events more memorable.
    7. Encourage dancing with partners or in groups to strengthen social bonds.
  5. Supporting Daily Routines:
    1. Play specific songs to signal different times of the day, such as waking up or meal times.
    2. Use music to assist in transitioning between activities, providing an auditory cue.
    3. Select energizing music for morning routines to set a positive tone for the day.
    4. Implement soothing melodies during bathing or personal care to promote a calming environment.
    5. Play familiar background music during tasks to increase focus and reduce anxiety.
    6. Establish a nighttime playlist with soft, soothing tunes to signal it’s time to wind down.
    7. Involve the person with dementia in choosing the music to give them a sense of control and routine.
  6. Navigating Mood Fluctuations:
    1. Pay attention to the person’s mood and select music to either match or gently shift it.
    2. Skilfully change the music if the current selection triggers agitation or distress.
    3. Utilize uplifting music to counteract signs of depression or apathy.
    4. Introduce sing-along sessions as a joyous activity to elevate mood.
    5. Be mindful of individual reactions to certain songs, as they may evoke strong emotional responses.
    6. Craft a ‘mood booster’ playlist with your favourite uplifting songs.
    7. Balance the emotional impact of music by following a sad or emotional song with a more positive or neutral tune.
  7. Engaging Professional Assistance:
    1. Consider hiring a certified music therapist for individualized therapeutic sessions.
    2. Attend workshops or sessions led by professionals to learn how to use music therapy at home effectively.
    3. Join support groups or forums to discuss strategies with other caregivers who use music therapy.
    4. Utilize resources provided by dementia organizations for advice on implementing music therapy.
    5. Seek out community programs that offer music therapy sessions specifically for dementia patients.
    6. Explore funding or grants available for music therapy services.
    7. Regularly review the approach with professionals to ensure the music therapy remains effective and beneficial.


Music therapy is a vibrant partner in the journey of dementia care. The rhythm and melody of familiar tunes have the profound capacity to breach the silence of fading memories, offer solace in the current moment, and foster a sense of identity and continuity for those affected by cognitive decline. By integrating these suggestions into the daily lives of individuals with dementia, caregivers can illuminate the path back to lost memories, celebrate the present, and dance hand in hand with those they support.

For those who have witnessed the transformational impact of music on the lives of loved ones with dementia, the journey is ongoing. If you’re looking to deepen your understanding or seek guidance on integrating music therapy into your care strategy, we’re here to help.

Don’t hesitate to reach out:

  • Name: SMPL Technology
  • Call: 833.237.4675 ext. 1,
  • Address:      
    • USA: 340 Royal Poinciana Way, Suite317/317 Palm Beach, Florida 33480
    • Canada: SiMPL Technology, 34 Futurity Gate, Unit 15 Concord, ON L4K 1S6 Canada
  • Email: support@smpltec.com,
  • Website: smpltec.com.

Together, we can create a symphony of support for those facing the challenges of dementia.

“Unmasking Memories: Let the Music Play, and the Heart Remember.”