Music can transform communication

Music can transform communication. The World War I Christmas Truce referred to as All Is Calm recalls an astounding moment in history when Allied and German soldiers met in “No Man’s Land” and laid down their arms to celebrate the holiday together by trading carols. Music, an important part of life in the trenches, helped create a context that inspired the truce.
The Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden and Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden, are leaders in the study on music and the effect on people with dementia:
Caregiver singing and background music were incorporated into the interaction between caregiver and patient, the aim being to illuminate the meaning of verbal communication between persons with severe dementia and their caregivers. In the absence of music, patients communicated with cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with dementia. In these situations, caregivers devoted their verbal communication to narrating and explaining their caring activities to the patient. The patient and caregiver, however, had difficulties understanding one another. In the presence of background music, caregivers decreased their verbal instructing and narrating while the patient communicated with an increased understanding of the situation, both verbally and behaviorally. During caregiver singing, a paradoxical effect was observed such that despite an evident reduction in the amount of verbal narration and description by the caregiver, the patient implicitly understood what was happening.

The prevalence of dementia is increasing as our population ages. Distressing behavioral problems associated with the illness are found to be better managed with evidence that calming music can produce desired cognitive effects. The effect of music may not be lasting, but there is evidence of benefit in studies.
For all of us there are memories associated with music. As we care for one another during the aging process, learning about what music has keenly influenced the lives of those we care for can allow for moments of calm and truce when words do not suffice.

One of the things I’ll be doing in the light of the full moon on Christmas night is singing to a 2000+ pound draft horse named Hans. He loves it. When he was a baby I would give his beautiful mother Nellie (of equal size) some respite and discovered that he absolutely loved music and to this day finds it calming.
May the power of music bring you, and those you care for, comfort and joy!
Ramona Hunt, M.S.
Touching Hearts Inc.

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