How can music help people who have Alzheimer's disease?

Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer's disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.

For example, music can:

  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce agitation

Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety and distress, lightening the mood, and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer's disease — especially those who have difficulty communicating.

If you'd like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease, consider these tips:

  • Think about your loved one's preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Set the mood. To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that's soothing. When you'd like to boost your loved one's mood, use more upbeat or faster paced music.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one's hearing ability. Opt for music that isn't interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  • Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship. Some early studies also suggest musical memory functions differently than other types of memory, and singing can help stimulate unique memories.
  • Pay attention to your loved one's response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else.

Keep in mind that music might not affect your loved one's cognitive status or quality of life. Further research to better understand the precise effects of music and Alzheimer's disease is needed.


Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

April 06, 2021 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. Alzheimer's sleep problems
  3. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  4. Helping an Alzheimer's caregiver
  5. Alzheimer's 101
  6. Alzheimer's and daily tasks
  7. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  8. Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase my risk?
  9. Alzheimer's disease
  10. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  11. Alzheimer's drugs
  12. Alzheimer's genes
  13. Alzheimer's nose spray: New Alzheimer's treatment?
  14. Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both?
  15. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  16. Alzheimer's stages
  17. Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
  18. Alzheimer's and holidays
  19. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  20. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  21. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  22. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  23. Antidepressants: Side effects
  24. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  25. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  26. Anxiety disorders
  27. Atypical antidepressants
  28. Axona: Medical food to treat Alzheimer's
  29. Benefits of being bilingual
  30. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  31. Can yoga help me keep caregiver stress in check?
  32. Caregiver stress
  33. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  34. Corticobasal degeneration (corticobasal syndrome)
  35. CT scan
  36. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  37. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  38. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  39. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  40. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  41. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  42. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  43. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  44. Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
  45. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  46. Home safety tips for Alzheimer's caregivers
  47. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  48. Improve brain health with the MIND diet
  49. Intermittent fasting
  50. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  51. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  52. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  53. Marijuana and depression
  54. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  55. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  56. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  57. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  58. Mediterranean diet recipes
  59. Memory loss: When to seek help
  60. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  61. MRI
  62. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  63. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  64. New Alzheimers Research
  65. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  66. Pet therapy
  67. Phantosmia: What causes olfactory hallucinations?
  68. Phosphatidylserine supplements: Can they improve memory?
  69. Positron emission tomography scan
  70. Posterior cortical atrophy
  71. Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
  72. Seeing inside the heart with MRI
  73. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  74. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  75. Sharing Alzheimer's diagnosis
  76. Brain anatomy
  77. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  78. Treatment-resistant depression
  79. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  80. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  81. MRI
  82. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  83. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  84. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?
  85. Young-onset Alzheimer's