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Music Can Help Families Living With Alzheimer's

Practical advice for caregivers from a music therapist

Side profile of a girl playing the guitar for her grandfather

— Jack Hollingsworth/Getty Images

Music therapy can enhance the quality of life for people with conditions ranging from dementia and cancer to chronic pain. Such therapy may involve listening or performing sessions designed by music therapists and based on the individual needs and interests of patients. But caregivers and family members also can connect with loved ones through music — whether by playing or singing favorite songs together or by dancing.

Especially for families living with Alzheimer's, the lyrics of the traditional German song apply: "All things shall perish from under the sky. Music alone shall live. ... never to die."

Music can help lower stress for people with Alzheimer's, says Alicia Clair, director of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas. Active in the field for 40 years, Clair specializes in older patients with dementia and veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injury.

In this audio interview (click on the link below), she talks with Steve Mencher, host of the Library of Congress' "Music and the Brain" podcast series and multimedia editor at AARP, about how to use music to stay connected to a loved one with dementia.

Listen to the interview.

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