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Music, the arts and dementia

More and more, it is recognised that people living with dementia are able to carry on using the skills they have in areas such as making music, visual art (like painting) and craft making, for far longer than it might once have been assumed. Arts-based groups allow people with dementia to tap into the skills they have and participate in group activity in a way that might otherwise be difficult. This page looks at the benefits of the arts for dementia and how to find a group near you. 

The benefits of music 

Musical therapies and activities are strongly associated with helping to improve a person’s sense of wellbeing.  It has also been linked to helping reduce distress (e.g. often seen if a person is experiencing emotions like sadness or anger).  This is believed to be because musical memory is stored in many different places in the brain and so, even if a person can’t remember the name of a song, a well-known melody, or long-practised lyrics (e.g. songs from childhood) appears to trigger powerful memory recall.  

It is also an activity that can help to support people living with advanced dementia.  Hearing a familiar tune, or being able to tap in time to a song, is thought to help strengthen a person’s sense of comfort and security.  For people who are caring for someone who may no longer be able to communicate by talking, sharing a connection through music can be extremely uplifting. 

The benefits of reminiscence 

Themed reminiscence (e.g. the use of memorabilia or, conversations about events that are important to people, such as family holidays as children etc.) has also been found to help people diagnosed with dementia. Reminiscence helps someone to instinctively feel able to take part, rather than being afraid that they will make a mistake or worry that they will have forgotten what to do. 

Where can I find out more?  There are a wide range of friendly and accessible groups across Oxfordshire that regularly run organised activities around music and the arts.  Many are free to attend but may ask for a small contribution to cover the cost of refreshments. Speak to your dementia adviser to find out what is in your local area.

You can make a positive difference for people in your community living with dementia and their carers by volunteering for Dementia Oxfordshire. Contact us to find out more.

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